The Tree, the Wall and Me

Early summer has arrived.  In some ways I really thought I’d be gone by now.   Other times it feels like I’ll never leave and I’m back on the hamster wheel everyday.  The winter was long and hard but it’s gone now.  Dandelions and fast growing grass has taken the place of thick blanket of snow that covered my world here.  Winter’s blanket is no more.  Yet here I am.  But not for long…

It’s pretty much the same routine every morning of getting up, walking over to the window and assessing the day.  Mary’s garden is still black with dirt but the grass and weeds are finding their way in slowly but surely.  The view out into the backyard is, in some ways, unchanged yet drastically different if I look out just a little bit farther beyond my yard.  More of that in a little bit…

It’s a big yard.  The lot my house on is 200′ long x 50′ wide.  Minus the house and drive way my yard is 150 feet long…. and pretty barren.  We had plans to do lots of things with it and started slow.  We knew we wanted to get an apple tree.  We hopped in the car and went to Lowes Nursery, the same place where we got the plants for her garden.  I wasn’t aware at the time but you need another tree to help cross-pollinate the apple tree.

So armed with that information, we picked out two trees: an apple tree and a crabapple tree.  They wouldn’t fit in either of our cars so she went to Menards and rented a truck – by herself – loaded them up in the back and drove them home and started digging.  That’s just how she is.  No one works harder.  I was at band practice and when I came home found her fast at work in the backyard.   I went out back to help.

They were planted in the fall of 2015 very late in the season but they did well and had leaves all of 2016.  Today, the crabapple tree is in full bloom and it smells amazing.  It’s really beautiful to look at.

That’s not the only thing I see though when I look in the backyard.  There’s the wall.  Not just any wall, it’s a very big flood wall.  The original plans for the wall followed the path of the river a couple blocks away and protected my neighborhood.   With that understanding, everyone down here used their FEMA money, retirement accounts, opened seconded mortgages to rebuild and renew their houses.  But when the plans for the protection system were posted on the city website, I knew that my neighborhood was a goner.  Yes, the large wall was there but there was a second wall that went BEHIND our neighborhood that no one talked about during these town hall meetings.  Or at least with the residence in my neighborhood.  This shorter wall is designed to only protect the water treatment plant.  This is the wall in my backyard.

Today as I watch the contractors building the wall I’m angry.   I’m watching them take their heavy equipment and knocking down trees for really no apparent reason.  It just pisses me off.  I’m moody these days.  I do my best to keep it under control but it’s always right there under the surface.  Those contractors though… they just push my button.  They always act like I’m intruding on their worksite when I drive through.  Yes, I understand that they have a job they were contracted (and I’m sure paid very well) to do, but clearly they don’t stop to think about everyone down here losing their homes.  A flood is devastating enough – now you want to take peoples homes they were told to rebuild.  Shitty.  Makes me want to punch the next one of these dudes in the face who gives me a shitty look.

Most of the houses are now sold to the city. There’s only a handful of us left down here. Some houses are being lifted off of the foundation and moved.  My home can’t be saved because it’s a split level.  So at some point various contractors will show up, rape and pillage my house for the windows and doors, the water heater, air conditioning unit and whatever else they can pull out.  Then they’ll knock it down and haul away the rubble.  Probably in a few hours.  No big deal for them anyway.   It bothers me.  Most people wouldn’t (and don’t) give a shit.  They’re not me.  This house is full of memories.  It’s very hard living in a haunted house.  That’s is exactly what it is.

A haunted house.

As I stand out here in the backyard looking at the beauty and smelling the fragrance from this tree, my mind wonders.  In some ways, this tree is what I’m leaving behind here in North Dakota in a physical sense.  Pretty much everything else that was in my life and what’s made me into the person I am today, I’m leaving here too.   My Mary.  Her family.  My military career.  My job.  My home.  My small group of friends.  My musical compadres.  Someone special to me I shared a moment in time with… My North Dakota.

I’ll be honest, sometimes you need to have a good breakdown.  I know I do.  Don’t give me that manly bullshit.  You can’t keep everything inside forever or you’ll go crazy.  When I look at this tree, I really worry about it’s longevity.  I don’t even want to think about it being killed or removed – especially by those fucking construction workers…

*Queue the breakdown*

We put that tree in.  It was an ordeal and we worked into the dark to finish it but we were both proud and happy with our little trees.  Mulched and watered.  It was a happy time.  Can’t they just leave it alone?!  It was just a skinny stick, a few branches with some roots.  It deserves a chance.  Surely somethings in life have to survive and win….?  At least give this tree a chance to grow.  Let the bees come and buzz around it.  Let the birds come and rest on it’s branches.  The same thing for the apple tree.  Let it produce fruit and give off shade.  Let it be a tree not just an obstacle in your way.  It’s one of the last things Mary and me did together.  Let it remain.  Please.  I’ll be gone soon enough.  That tree is a part of me.


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