Goodbye, “My” Tree.

November 2, 2009 at 9:54 am (By Amba)

“I’d like to have a tree to look at — is that too much to ask –”

Scrawled — “rather irritably!” — in a journal in June 2006, when we were house- and pet-sitting for Michael Reynolds here in Chapel Hill and hunting for an apartment.  You see here my cup-half-empty, superstitious, grumpy daring of the god (yes, no “s” — being Jewish in spite of myself, if there are any I can’t really conceive of there being more than one, and can’t repose in placid trust of that god’s generosity — it is an irritable relationship).

Well, despite the perverse and inverted form of the request, I got precisely that:  a tree to look at.  And what a tree:  a New England-worthy young maple that “burst into flame” — there was no other way to describe it — at the peak of each autumn.

I was eagerly looking forward to looking at it, this fall, to feasting on that radiance fierce as grief that eyes can never get enough of.  It seemed to be turning awfully late, but I see from the date of my previous year’s post, November 8, that if anything it was early.  I still haven’t gotten used to the southern schedule.  The first little spotlit parts of it had begun to turn when our building literally burst into flame and aborted the expectation.

As soon as I got J out of the hospice and into our temporary apartment — probably Sunday the 25th — I got him up and into the wheelchair and pushed him around to the little street behind the apartment complex, a matter of several fairly steep hills.  I had to struggle to push the wheelchair up into the last parking lot before Franklin Street, from which, I’d been told, we could see the back of our building with our own eyes.  (I nearly lost control of the wheelchair afterwards, coming back down.  Should have driven.  It was dumb.  Dumb luck, again, too.  If there is a God, He shamelessly plays favorites, and J is on his A-list.)

Sure enough, the bomb chasm in the back of our building was almost close enough to touch, a temporary chain-link fence and crime-scene tape in between.  (They’ll never know what caused this fire, I’ve heard; it ate the evidence.)  There was the little hummingbird feeder still dangling intact on our window.  Downy woodpeckers were flitting insouciantly in and out of the wreckage — shades of “the world without us.”  And there was “my” little tree — though I had not come to see it — burning coolly at the perfect peak of its incandescence.

So I did get to see it this year, just from a quite unexpected perspective.  Life’s funny, how it moves you along.

(The new permanent apartment, which I suspect I’m going to become more attached to than the old one — wooden floors! — looks out on even more trees than the old one.  But whether it has a Tree, or just some nice pine trees, I have not yet gone to see.  Meanwhile, I’m feeling a bit sorry and selfish for being so happy to live in the back again:  I’ve discovered that J likes to people-watch out the front, with the village elder’s instinct for keeping an eye on things.  There was a moment when the property manager broke the “news,” which turned out to be untrue, that we were going to be living in a floor-through, front to back, their biggest unit, for the same rent.  The maintenance man quickly disabused her of that misconception.  I didn’t have time to be disappointed, was if anything relieved — that would have been too much.  I prefer good fortune form-fitted — not lavish but lagom, “just enough.” The only thing that would have been nice about it is that each of us would have had a window to look out of.)


  1. Donna B. said,

    As soon as I read “fairly steep hill” I wondered what the trip back was like.

  2. Randy said,

    The major drawback of a wooden floor vs. carpet: it is harder to pretend that the cat hair isn’t really there.

  3. amba12 said,

    Not to mention the kitty litter. Agreed, it’s going to be more work to keep it looking nice. But it will look nicer than crappy wall-to-wall ever can.

  4. Randy said,

    LOL! I’m a big believer in Fresh Step. (best deal @ Wal-Mart) Far less dust & debris elsewhere despite one cat which really gets into covering things up (he used to scratch the wall hoping to bring it down into the box as well – so I moved the box a few inches away). It also lasts longer than most if scooped regularly and given the one finicky guy, you can be sure it is ;-)

  5. amba said,

    You can be sure I will check it out. I’ve been using Feline Pine, which clumps but is nontoxic and flushable. It actually harks back to the days before kitty litter, which few remember. (This is like remembering carbon paper.) But in the late ’40s – early ’50s, what we put in our litter box was sawdust! Full circle!

    In fact I was just going to post about this . . .

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