27 days ago I received two trees from Tree Pittsburgh. I hope that I did not do them a grave disservice by leaving them in their planters on the deck until now. I was away for awhile, and then just kept on putting it off upon my return. I finally planted them in our backyard today.
I had my choice of trees at the end of the celebration of Westinghouse Park becoming designated an arboretum. Other people had requested these trees ahead of time and then didn’t pick them up. There were some beautiful well-known species, including a maple and an oak. I asked for advice on trees that would work in a relatively small backyard and then chose these two for that quality: serviceberry and dogwood. I was also influenced by their names, because they would decorate the yard around the resting place of the inimitable Mookie, the best dog in the world. I was also drawn to the fruit-bearing nature of the serviceberry (labeled Amelanchier laevis) and the genus/species of the dogwood (Cornel officinalis) reminded me of my beloved alma mater
The last time I used that shovel was to dig Mookie’s grave in the spring of 2006. He died sixteen years ago this month, after more than sixteen years of service. The dirt smell on my hands reminds me of making moats at the base of the tree that shaded my childhood home.
The last time I planted a tree was after Arbor Day in 1973 or 1974. I received a tiny sprout of a locust tree at school, bringing it home in a container the size of a Dixie cup. I planted it and over the years it grew. I remember when it grew taller than my height, and then taller than the dinner bell mounted on a nearby post, and then tall enough for me to grab onto its branches, and then rivaling the height of the house. The guy who bought the house, who himself lived there before we did, he had it cut down. When I learned that, it was like a part of me had been chopped down too.
I delayed planting these two trees because I wasn’t sure. I wasn’t sure quite where to place them. I didn’t want to place them too close to Mookie’s unmarked grave, or maybe I should place one directly on top, to anchor and prevent any disturbance, but that would be a final admission that he and I would never be buried together. I wanted to keep them away from the foundation of the house, away from fences, away from the garage. Yet I wanted them to be close enough to provide shade to the windows in the summer and some privacy from the neighbors. I wanted them to be spaced from each other a natural way. To be perfectly honest, I wasn’t sure even whether to plant them at all — this was the yard where the children ran and played when they were younger. Trees get in the way of running, and will be in the way when I mow the lawn.
I brought them home and we’ve now had a couple of nights where the temperature is below freezing. The trees deserve to live. Yesterday I plotted out their sites. Today I dug two holes and planted them.