I went out back yesterday, and in addition to experiencing the ridiculous heat index of 100 plus degrees Fahrenheit, I experienced dismay at seeing cottonwood tree leaves. Yellow and on the ground. My six-year-old trees, stressed to the max, and it’s only mid-July. Darn.
Cottonwoods, native to the Midwest, typically lose leaves in late summer or early fall. Or when it’s extremely dry or unusually hot. No, it’s not late summer. But the heat and lack of rain has caught up with the trees. They’ve shed about 10 percent of their leaves, which helps the tree survive. All the extension office websites I checked agree that the trees aren’t in danger. Yet.
Is there a lesson in that? For me? For you? For the country?
I’m at that point with my work in progress (WIP). Time to chalk it up as a bad experience, lessons learned, and move on. Maybe I’ll give up writing altogether–or so I tell my fabulous editor/coach.
No, no, no, she emails back. You’re closer than you think.
And while I’m cogitating, Jim asks me what I want to do with the ‘old tree out back’. This poor thing was a 40 foot cottonwood that has been here since before the acreage was divided and the house was built some 30 years ago. It’s been dying a slow and painful death since we moved in. This spring, Jim cut the tree down and left the stump.
I thought we’d poly it and use it as a garden seat. I neglected to say the words out loud to Jim, and he left it be. As you see, the tree persists in being something. Not the cottonwood it was. Maybe a cottonwood bush. And surrounding the stump are little trees popping out of the grass. Like so.
I have this notion that I should be able to write three or four novels a year. And I have, but not different books. I’ve rewritten the same book, three times going on four.
Now here I am, at the start of the second year, deciding whether to persist. Have I learned to be more tree-like?
I’ve been trying to grow an apple allée in the back acre. So far, I have six trees, three varieties of apples for cross pollination.
Problem is, the trees aren’t cooperating. One of them keeps falling over.
“You used the wrong soil,” Jim says. And he’s probably right. Instead of plopping the tree into Kansas clay, I mixed in potting soil. The remaining trees are still quite young. It’ll be several years before they grow enough to form the alley, or the path between them.
Just in case you’re wondering, the word allée comes from the French aller, the infinitive meaning ‘to go’.
I’ve been looking for examples of allées, and here is a good one. Driving out of the Rutlader Cemetery–about a mile from our house. I think these are oaks, but honestly, my tree identification skills are not great.
I like to think that someday, my apple allée will look this good.
As a more-or-less right brained person, I tend to see wholes instead of parts. Sometimes this is a plus. Like when planning a garden or a novel.
But when it comes down to the nitty-gritty—weeding and editing—I tend to get overwhelmed by all the little pieces. And for me, overwhelmed means immobilized.
I do better when I focus on just this one thing.
This chapter, page, sentence rather than the entire work. This one garden, section, plant rather than the whole yard. When I narrow my focus, I’m more likely to keep moving forward.
We have a courtyard off the master bedroom and the centerpiece is a 15-foot Japanese maple (Acer Bloodgood) that by rights, should not have lived in windy Kansas. During last fall’s storms, branches banged on the roof and gutters until Jim tied them back.
In February, we gave the tree a hard prune—30 percent. The photo? On this branch where we made a cut, the tree focused on just this little sucker today … Pretty.
Last year, I planted a stick that claimed to be a North American Fringe tree. Located in the front of the house, I planned on it growing according to the label–ten feet in about five years.
I’ve since read other labels attached to North American fringe trees (not sticks) and found that the native fringe tree is a moderate grower that will reach 18 feet. So I may have planted my stick in the wrong spot.
Meanwhile, after our April rain of two inches, I noticed some black spots on the leaves. I’ve done my research and the tree needs fruit tree fungicide. If I don’t spray, eventually the tree will die.
Maybe I should let it die? No, that seems cruel. I should dig it up and replant it somewhere in the back. And get a shorter tree for the front.
Or I can spray it with fungicide and leave it where it is. I have the right fungicide. Problem is, the wind has to die down before I use it. At the moment, we have winds SSW at 12 MPH. Way too much wind for spraying.
If I had more money than time, I’d replant and replace.