A row of arborvitae intended to screen an unseemly RV strip at the edge of our property died; it was really the only thing we lost in the yard but it bothered Dawn to look at: there were seven, in various shades of brown or copper and one, the third from the left, that survived somehow but we knew we’d have to take it out regardless. I thought about digging them up and burning them (what seems most respectful, like flags or bodies) but worried I’d start a wildfire with the overhanging trees. Our friends who rented the place had an RV while they were here but don’t have anywhere to store it now so Dawn offered they could leave it here, we could park it at the strip, and maybe I could use it as a writing den. I pictured myself emerging from it at odd hours with my hair askew, that mad look of creation, of being possessed by something borderline genius, borderline nuts.
Since Seattle’s been one of the fastest-growing cities in the U.S. in recent years, they just keep yanking out trees on our plateau here, throwing up homes, and living on nearly an acre off a gravel road, we know it’s only a matter of time before it happens to us, we make a killing selling to a developer and move out to the country, try not to look back.
I told myself I’d make a point to get to know every tree, shrub and bush on our property now, to not take anything for granted, to water properly and really appreciate them — but some are awkward looking and leaning, like filler, like background extras in a Peanuts special with no speaking parts.
We got through the first 72 hours of the settling-in spazz out period, the unflinching desire to keep every small piece of lint out of the carpet, every surface immaculate — to put everything where it belongs right away — that sickened, wheezing ping-pong between rooms that drives me to drink, the only thing that can slow me down. It’s like our friends Erica and Chris said when they moved into their last house: they just lived off beer and coffee, divided the day between the two. Dishes, laundry, bedding, towels: fiddle-fucking with anything I can get my hands on that’s mine, that’s our place. Letting the radio play in the den even when I’m not in it, to season the air with my sound. Fast internet, no delays, all business. No land line, no unwanted calls or messages, no blinking lights. Buying a new American flag at the Home Depot, giddy in my stride, waving at strangers, patient in the parking lot, bold enough for the self-scan. Buying a replacement grate for the grill, that’s so old it looks tie-dyed now with rust and crystallized meat pustules from past, smoked meats my dog would probably love (who needs wire brushes?) but that I’ll save to erect as a man-pit to practice cooking over live fires, to fill the neighborhood with my scent, to attract carnivores to gather and worship and fear me, their new lord.
I had a business owner who tested me as her new project manager, to see if I was the right fit, by sending an email probably from her phone that started with something like, We should make a project plan asap, and went on for about 200 words without a paragraph break or any punctuation to speak of, kind of Beat poet style but not as good, to describe everything the plan should have, and ended abruptly, with three or four follow-up messages in about an hour adding on to it, that I had to print and lay out on a table in a small conference room with her, and rub my forehead until she asked What’s the matter, is it because it’s so disorganized to which I sharply said Yes, and she smiled, I’d passed the test, I’d proven I can’t stand disorder, the initiation rite for all project managers and tweakers, I have to set things right.
I lay on the sofa looking at the clouds as the weather shifts, a storm’s coming, and it starts with the sound in the trees, that have no speaking parts but find their voice with whatever force moves through them and go quiet between movements, and it seems we don’t really notice them until they’re gone, they all look alike, and most of what keeps them standing, that holds them up, is unseen, and it’s hard to tell their true health until they collapse and you cut them open, try to tell what happened when, and even then it’s just a guess.