In Troubled Times

This morning when I looked out my front window, I saw that the juneberry we planted two years ago was budding. Through the rain I could see the sketch of pale green buds dotting each limb, all the way out to the tips–with the promise of sweet berries contained in each one.

Buds that will open into a white blossom, eventually fruiting into delicious berries

Buds that will open into a white blossom, eventually fruiting into delicious berries

The young tree has made it through two of the hottest summers on record, and those tender buds gave my heavy heart a lift.

We planted it because we wanted to grow fruit on our lot, and we nurtured it with weekly waterings through crippling drought and heat. When the rain barrel went dry, I carried buckets from indoors, saving shower water, cooking water, and the dehumidifier’s daily emptying–occasionally breaking down and stretching the hose across the lawn to let it run for a slow hour.

There’s a passage I like from Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh, called Interbeing. It begins:

“If you are a poet, you will see clearly that there is a cloud floating in this sheet of paper…”

My tree contains multitudes. It has the memory of picking juneberries with my dad a few years ago, before he got sick, before he died, in the forgotten pocket park wedged between two busy streets. There were three small trees just loaded with juicy wine-colored berries. Dad picked from the high branches and left me the low ones. When the low limbs were picked clean, he pulled the ends of the high branches down so I could reach.

Also part of my tree is Jason, the neighbor who helped dig the hole and position the root ball on planting day. And Jerome, the young man who brought it to us through his work with Keep Indianapolis Beautiful. This year Jerome has parlayed his passion for trees into his own business as a certified arborist, Tree-Centric Solutions–pledging to not only plant, treat, and prune trees, but find uses for wood from trees that can’t be saved.

My juneberry even holds the “woman tree,” an old redbud whose upreaching shape I cherished. I called her that because she always looked so feminine to me. The woman tree was just beyond where the juneberry is now, and she had to come down because half the branches were dead. Taking her out meant we freed up room for a fruiting tree.

Irony: I learned that redbud flowers are edible just after we had ours cut down. I could have decorated so many salads with the woman tree’s bounty. Not only that, but Jerome’s service came too late for her: What I wouldn’t give to have something made from the wood of that beloved redbud!

So all that’s in this juneberry too: my regrets, my ignorance, my wishing things were otherwise. But mostly, these are outshone by pride and hope.

I share all this because in troubled times, sometimes things like this can help: a small tree in the rain, holding memories and care, covered in promise.

10 thoughts on “In Troubled Times

  1. I will bring you some ‘woman tree’ blossoms…I didn’t know the redbud had such a lovely 2nd name…I also recently planted a service berry (juneberry) – and look forward to it’s first fruiting…it has a memorable story too. Nice post Shawndra.

    • Thanks Laura. I do forage for redbud blooms along my street since I got the word. So yummy, I can’t wait till they’re blooming. And I just called that particular tree “woman tree” because of its feminine shape.

  2. What a *lovely* tribute (to several things) and written piece, Shawndra! Your writing reminded me about the time some years ago when my uncle died. Instead of flowers I bought a 6-foot earth-balled blooming tree and drove it to the funeral home. From its branches I hung a card in which I’d written something like “May the branches of this tree, like your memories of Vic, provide shelter and comfort in the days ahead.” When Vic’s widow sold their use two years later, she actually had that tree dug out and replanted at her current home, where it continues to grow and bloom! Trees have such beauty and significance. Thank you for sharing that.

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