The trees could be characters if we only gave them names

IMG_5794A 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.

About pinklightsabre

William Pearse publishes memoir, travel journals, poetry and prose, and lives in the Pacific Northwest.
This entry was posted in musings, writing and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

32 Responses to The trees could be characters if we only gave them names

  1. byebyebeer says:

    My husband told me he’d read somewhere about people using RVs more and more as extra space, guest rooms, offices, whatever. I love that idea of a place to retreat and emerge wild eyed and haired, a clubhouse where no one would disturb, though it sounds too good to be true. Also love the bit about trees as extras in a Peanuts special. And when you described that project management test, I felt the tension and panic like you get in a nightmare. Glad you’re settling back in. Sounds good and satisfying.

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    • pinklightsabre says:

      I’m glad you liked the Peanuts line. It’s that which inspired me to write the rest, some of these trees and bushes here just look so sad, so half-scrawled. The tension and panic, the nightmare, that’s it. Sometimes hard to tell what’s real, how our minds play tricks on us — and yes, we’re settling and it feels so good, so thanks for the kind words and reading my story of mixed nuts. Bill

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    • rossmurray1 says:

      Yeah, the Peanuts image is “wah-wah-wahhhhh!”

      Liked by 1 person

      • pinklightsabre says:

        I have to say I wasn’t too much of a fan over time. Kind of like eating old toast without any spread on it. But there is some understated elegance to it, to the films. I read the list of titles from the 60s onward and it’s quite impressive. I think I heard somewhere that when he ran the Christmas one they had other music in mind but he insisted on the Vince Guaraldi. Now there’s an artist who really sees, imagines, the complete experience. Can you imagine that ice skating scene with anything else?

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      • rossmurray1 says:

        It’s the only one I like. The animation is the pits because they had no budget. But again, can you think of it any other way?

        Liked by 1 person

      • pinklightsabre says:

        It has that quiet veneer of the 60s, a time that must seem terribly abstract to the yoot’ of today.

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  2. I read your title and thought, uh, mine are – characters and named. Wanting to learn every tree on your property reminds me of one of my favorite non-fiction reads, Aldo Leopold’s “A Sand County Almanac”. Simple observations and a way of knowing the topography like an old friend.

    Sounds like you’re settling in well and soon to be gainfully employed again. Congrats on the first, mixed blessings on the second, Bill – and possibly a little envy. The long summer stretches before me, like the pages I have to fill with words. Feeling the heat already.

    Liked by 1 person

    • pinklightsabre says:

      Nice to hear from you Michelle, looking forward to meeting up in August. It is mixed blessings, but good. I’ve had a long run of it you know, and if we’re lucky there’s a lot more to be had still. Bill

      Liked by 1 person

  3. ksbeth says:

    love all of the characters in your story, especially the trees. that project test made me bonkers just reading it, though i think i would be a horrible project manager, as i tend to only use lower case, and use long run-on sentences. (as you can see). welcome back to the u.s.of a. and all that comes with it –

    Liked by 1 person

    • pinklightsabre says:

      Brilliant, Beth. Glad you liked the characters, thanks. And for the warm welcome, feels good. And a brand new flag here! We pledged allegiance to the last and burned it with some corn husk silk.

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  4. Welcome back. Are you really going to get a job! That will certainly provide you with writing material.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Our property is lined with a mix of trees to keep the illusion of privacy and it is always hard to cut down the ones that aren’t thriving. My neighbor to the west wants me to cut all the alders down because they litter his yard with leaves in the fall. I don’t like him, so I’m keeping those trees forever. My neighbor to the east can cut as many as she wants…I’m not a good neighbor.

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    • pinklightsabre says:

      The illusion of privacy still has some privacy in it. I don’t believe you’re not a good neighbor, though. I bet they just don’t deserve it.
      It’s good to hear from you Jon and I hope you and your family are well, still hitting shows at the Croc and mashing it up some with your eldest. Bill

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  6. rossmurray1 says:

    You’re a Bohemian who craves order. Life is paradox, no? At our school, the assistant headmaster in charge of discipline (the bad cop to our headmaster, and good at it) is also the philosophy teacher and an anti-corporate, anti-establishment lefty. He seems to sleep just fine at night.

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    • pinklightsabre says:

      You’re right, I never thought of it like that. I like the description of the assistant headmaster (and the idea of sleeping just fine at night). Wax on, wax off.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I dig the trees too, Bill, though haven’t managed to name ours yet. We have a lot of ’em, and I like to think they’ve been here a lot longer than me so they deserve a lot of respect. There’s one old pine leaning at a dangerous angle, and I know she’ll have to go soon so we’ll probably name her first. Eileen?

    Liked by 1 person

    • pinklightsabre says:

      “Ilene…” Hardee har-har, I like that. We have one that’s massive Dawn wants out and it’s killing me to think of, but it’s so close to the house we worry about the roots and the foundation, so there you go. Yes, “dig the trees,” Doug.

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  8. walt walker says:

    Looks like I’m in the minority here, but I selfishly want you to not work but rather spend all your time in the RV writing like a mad scientist. I get that income would be good too, though.

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  9. daveply says:

    It’s hard to take a good tree for granted. They’re great for dressing up the view and providing shade, not so great when they’re dumping leaves and branches willy-nilly, terrify the wife when the winds are up, but make you sad when they die.

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  10. poshbirdy says:

    Dividing the day between beer and coffee. My new work-life balance

    Liked by 1 person

  11. A name change. Coming out from behind the curtain, I presume?

    I had to Google ‘arborvitae.’ It turns out I have (had) the same thing in my yard with the same dead, brown results.

    If Seattle isn’t careful it’s going to look like New Jersey. They’re eliminating the reason why people move out there. Ironic, isn’t it?

    I’d rather fiddle-fuck than fuck a fiddle. Firth of fifth.

    Liked by 1 person

    • pinklightsabre says:

      Just trying to brand the curtain maybe. Good eye….yes, doesn’t look right, that tree name, but who am I to say. I think we crossed the Firth of Forth north of Edinburgh, to the Highlands (and a few fifths).

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  12. Hemangini says:

    congratulations on passing the test… It’s amazing how employees come up with different test ideas to find the perfect person for the job. It’s tricky to pass interviews these days and as much fun. By the way I love the title of this post and I can’t help but wonder what we’d do as we pass by the trees and specially what would those people do who do horrible things around trees? lol

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