The Gingko Tree

Everything had to be perfect. The shape. The size. And most especially the location. Visible from any angle. This was no ordinary tree!

Moving from my old house meant that I would have to leave all of my landscaping handiwork behind. Over the years I had touched every bush and shrub, and seemingly every blade of grass on the property. Much of the greenery I had planted. All of it I had nurtured. Redbuds, dogwoods and peach trees. Lenten roses in the shade. Flowering forsythia and camellia. Maple trees and two giant river birches. I loved them all.

The hardscaping was mine too. Railroad ties to create terraced steps in front and back. A slate paver patio. Brick retaining walls. And the koi pond. That was a real masterpiece.

But the greatest thing in the whole landscape, my very favorite item, was the gingko tree. With it’s green fan shaped leaves in the summer and the rich gold and yellow it transforms to in the fall, this most ancient of trees is simply spectacular. There are several majestic specimens in my town. They always catch my eye, and I have to stop dead in my tracks to stare and admire them. Even when the leaves fall off late in the season, the mound of golden leaves on the ground is worthy of tribute.

And so, I decided that the landscape at my home could not be complete without one of these trees. It wasn’t easy to find. And because of its combined rarity and popularity, it wasn’t cheap. Worth every penny.

The most magnificent specimen I had seen in town was fifty feet tall. With a trunk more than a foot across. My new acquisition, of which I was very proud, was four feet tall. And not quite an inch in diameter. Gingko are slow growers, so I knew I was in for a long haul with this tree.

I planted it where it would have good sun. In decent soil. And where it could be seen from the street and from every room in the back of my house. One day it would be spectacular.

The first couple of years were trying. I had to water it a lot. And indeed it grew slowly. But it sprouted leaves every spring. And they turned yellow every fall. But they didn’t hang on to the branches very long. That’s ok, the golden mound of leaves on the ground was still beautiful.

At some point something clicked with this tree. I guess the roots got happy and it took off. It grew, and thrived, and produced more and more of the golden leaves. The whole family loved it. But the leaves never did hang on very long.

When we moved, there was no gingko at the new house. I would have to plant one.   Even as a priority it took me nearly a year to find the tree, and the perfect spot. The tree was actually easier to find than the spot. Several times I passed on getting the tree because I hadn’t decided on the spot.

Good soil. Perfect sunlight. In a place where it could be seen from every room in the back of the house. But not too close to the house. And not in a place where it would block the view of the pond in the back.

Finally I bought the tree knowing that having it in hand would force me to find the right spot. Straight and well branched, it stands four feet tall. And measures about an inch in diameter. It had golden leaves clinging tightly to the branches.

The potted tree was placed in the yard. How did it look here? Or there? Move it a few feet this way, and back. Now six inches left and two inches forward. That was it. All of the siting requirements were met. Where is that shovel?

Having positioned the tree with laser precision, I knew that digging a hole would not be quite as accurate. Close enough. It was in the right place, and it was standing straight. I backfilled the hole with dirt, mulch and special planting soil. This tree will lead a pampered life.

My youngest daughter went by the old house to get a look at the gingko. It was now nearly twenty feet tall, and about four inches in diameter. The leaves had already fallen off. The new owners no nothing of the history of that tree. And might not even like yellow. Now my new homestead has a gingko to call its own. Or more likely, a gingko has this new homestead to claim for itself.

I’ll make sure that it is happy, as it makes me happy. That’s part of my story. What’s yours?

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Snow Person

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The crystalline and powdery snow that fell last night was beautiful. But it wasn’t very good for snowman building. I tried to ball some up but it wouldn’t stick together to make any kind of clump. Just fell apart.

We don’t get much snow here, and it’s been a long time since I have built any kind of real snowman. This snowfall required one. Somehow.

If I couldn’t build a person out of snow I would have to build a person in the snow. I had just the thing. In my office I have a family made of several wooden sculptures. Mom, dad, kid and dog. I could use one of those for the basic figure.

Add a head, and a scarf, some arms and its ready to go. Easier said than done perhaps.

In the coat closet there is a box of scarves and hats and gloves. The scarf with red and white stripes, which I’ve had for nearly fifty years, was obvious for a snow person. And a few sticks from the yard would be good for arms.

Not too thick, not too thin. Break them off to the perfect length and lash them together so they can be attached to the basic figure. When I put the sticks down to take off my glove so I could tie the sticks on to the body, the dog ran up, grabbed the sticks and ran off with them. She chewed the end off of one! Not a total disaster. Big head, shorter arms.

Speaking of the head, that was not hard at all. Sounds a little odd I guess, but I have a head, other than my own, in my office. It’s an old mannequin for hat displays. And that’s what I use it for. It wears a top hat. I can just stick it up on top of the basic figure and viola! Almost human!

I put the whole thing in the backyard, overlooking the pond. Since it wasn’t really attached, the head kept falling over. So I had to prop it up with the scarf.  I wasn’t trying to build Frankenstein’s monster. It’s name is Hungry, because it’s a little on the thin side.

It soon became evident that the dog would eat the whole thing if I left it outside, so I just took a couple of pics and brought it back inside.

The snow won’t last very long. And the snow person was short-lived as well. That’s how Mother Nature rolls I guess. Everything changes.

That’s part of my story. What’s yours?

 

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Five Nines

IMG_1855Milestones need to be celebrated. And this is a major one. Its not quite like reaching the ripe old age of 100, but the odometer on my truck just rolled over 100,000 miles.

It was when the numbers on the dial read something like 95,000 that I began to watch it, knowing that it wouldn’t take too long to hit 100. And I didn’t want to miss that.

My van has slightly over 200 thousand miles, and I never have really paid that much attention to it. Toyota. I know it will probably go to 500. Damn thing will probably last longer than I do. But the Nissan truck bore more careful watching. I’d had an Altima, and I don’t think it made it to 100 thousand miles.

Not it’s fault really. When the deer slammed into its front end the poor car kinda lost a lot of its momentum. I’m sure it would have made it if not for that tragedy.

I had a Dodge that barely limped over the 100 mark. Then died. And a Ford that got to 106 before I had to trade it away. But this truck seems to be running strong. And I have high hopes for at least 250.

When I bought it, after the Altima quit, it had 20 thousand miles on it and was two years old. Immaculate condition and it had all the bells and whistles one could ask for on a truck. That was eight years ago. In that time we have made numerous road trips. She has hauled furniture up and down the highways, sometimes looking like the heap belonging to the Beverly Hillbillies. Lawnmowers, ladders and all asortment of tools have ridden along. And even my motorcycle, tied up tightly in the bed. Rocks, bricks and logs. And yes, a six foot tall blow mold Santa!

Riding up to my antique shop this afternoon I looked down and saw the number – 99970. I figured it would turn over before I got back home. Wrong though.

Pulling into my driveway the number read 99998. Two more miles. I still had to go meet my daughter for dinner. It would turn on that trip.

As I headed toward the pizza joint to meet my daughter I kept a close eye on the odometer. 99999. I wondered if at that magic moment it would go to all zeros, or if a 1 would pop up on the left edge. Surely the 1 would come up since the manufacturer must expect the vehicle to go much more than this distance. In the old days cars didn’t last that long and rolling over 100 meant it would show all zeros. Buying a “low mileage” used car back then could prove to be quite a surprise when you realized that the son of a gun had over one hundred thousand miles on it. Sucker!

When the numbers turned, and the 1 popped up with five zeros I pulled off the road to take a picture of the odometer. Blowing a horn and shooting off fireworks might have been more appropriate, but this would have to do.

As I rolled on, and the number rolled to 100,001 I knew there would be many miles to come. I am still waiting to tow a boat with this baby. And an Airstream trailer.

That’s part of my story. What’s yours?

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Plastic Santa

Middle of January and Santa Claus is still meandering along the back roads of Georgia. Everywhere else in the world he makes his Christmas Eve journey, goes home to the North Pole then grabs his swim suit and hops in his Lear Sleigh and flies off to Tahiti for a long winter’s nap. And some well deserved R and R.

At least that’s the tradition as seen in a lot of places. Here in Georgia, and I’m told in much of the South, there is a tradition that calls for all good folks to have all of their Christmas decorations removed by New Year’s eve. Else ill fortune should befall them.

When I was growing up we had a different tradition. I never was sure where it came from . On Christmas Eve day we would put up our Christmas tree. It may have been sitting in a bucket of water in the garage or barn for weeks, but it never came into the house until Christmas Eve. It was decorated in the late afternoon, before church. And it would stand in the living room, glowing and shining until January sixth. The day of Epiphany. The day the Wise men finally showed up to see Jesus in the manger.

Over the years I’ve compromised some. The tree goes up right after Thanksgiving, and stays up until January sixth. A long time.

But here, in the middle of January, it’s all gone. It was surprising then that while driving down the back roads today, headed toward South Georgia, I saw Santa Claus.

Not the real one. He really is in Tahiti. And not a blow up one. It was a plastic Santa. A blow mold Santa.

I love these things. They remind me of the fifties and sixties. Whenever I see one I stop to look. There are bigger than life ones, tiny ones and every size in between. Sometimes he has a sack full of toys. Sometimes it’s just him. He may be waving. Or chuckling. So many different ones. But they all have a red suit, black belt and white fur trim.

With no shame, or sense of boundaries, I have been known to stop at the sight of a blow mold Santa to take a picture. Even to inquire with the homeowner if they would be interested in selling the figure. No such luck.

People who put blow molds in their yards either know what they are and value them highly, or are very sentimentally attached. In neither case never will they sell them. Among mid century enthusiasts, blow molds are quite a treasure.

There are nutcrackers, toy soldiers, angels, nativity entourages, reindeer, sleighs with reindeer, snowmen of all sorts, and anything else that is in any way related to Christmas. To make it all so much better, blow molds have found their way into every major holiday. Trust me, my sister has one for everything. Or I should say, several hundred representing everything. A tad over the top perhaps.

This day, in South Georgia, Santa was still standing cheerfully on the front porch of some lucky families home. Maybe they keep him there to bring them joy. Or maybe because it’s too hard to pack him up for the year. But for whatever reason, he was there for me to see. And enjoy.

That’s part of my story. What’s yours?

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King Cotton

Cotton used to be king in Dixie. Now there are a number of other crops grown for a greater profit. Cotton wore out the soil and the boll weevil nearly killed it all off. But it is still grown.

In the fall we begin to see the bolls appearing on the plants around here.   The fields extend deep into Georgia, and the fluffy white balls are hard to miss as you drive down the roads. Small fields and large.

It’s a mystery to me as to how the farmers decide when to harvest the stuff. Looks ripe to me. But they wait. And not everyone harvests at the same time.

One day there will be a field full of cotton, and the next day it’s all gone. Depending on the equipment they use, some farmers grab all the cotton and plow the stalks under. Others grab the white stuff and leave the stalks. Some seem to leave half the cotton, and all of the stalks. Is it really a cash crop?

That question struck me today as I was driving past the fields. The crop had been harvested several weeks ago, but the bales of cotton were still in the barns and fields.

A bale today isn’t what you might have seen in the history books. Nowadays a “bale” of cotton is the size of a forty cubic yard dumpster. A huge solid block. Or it may be rolled up like hay. A cylinder five feet tall and five feet across.

But why is it still sitting there? Shouldn’t it be headed toward a factory or something? I guess it won’t go bad. Or rot.

So I wondered, do they just grow it for the tourists to see? Is it something they use to put minerals into the soil? Or is there some reason why giant trucks have to wait to pick it up and drive it somewhere.

There is a working cotton gin a few miles down the road from my house. And forty-nine others in the state of Georgia. How much can they process? And how quickly? I don’t know.

I’m not a farmer. They must know what they are doing. All I know is that eventually the cotton will make it into clothing I can buy. And lots of other items.

That’s part of my story. What’s yours?

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Sound Waves

Familiar sounds can be very soothing. Being surrounded by things we know is always comforting. These routine sounds often drift into the background, almost forgotten. Even loud sounds, like the dishwasher springing to life at three in the morning can be calming. As long as they are familiar.

After nineteen years in my old house, I had heard every sound it had to offer. And felt comfortable with most of them. The creak in the upstairs hallway when you stepped on just the right board. The HVAC units going on and off smoothly. Doors opening and closing as people came and went. The icemaker filling with water at all hours of the day and night. And the sounds of people sleeping.

Then there were a few sounds that weren’t so pleasant. There was an unfamiliar sound of water running one night. That was the water heater exploding under too much water pressure coming from the county water line. And the sounds of gusty winds and rain.

I live in a tornado prone area. In the spring, the winds blow hard, and the rain pours down. And it always seems to happen at night when you cant see a damn thing. Scary, but you get used to them.

Moving to a new house gave me a lot of unfamiliar sounds to adjust to. The dishwasher still comes on in the middle of the night, but somehow seems louder. The fans on the HVAC systems blow after the units shut off. I’m still figuring out how the programmable thermostat works. I think the machine is programming me. The floors creak. In more places. And I don’t think I have found every spot yet. And can’t remember where all of them are. The first time I heard the icemaker drop a load of ice I thought a car had crashed into my garage!

And then there is the rain. Still in a tornado area, and the wind and rain still howl. But the house is down in a holler so it’s blocked by the hills.

The new house has a metal roof. And the sound of the rain falling on it can take many forms. The main house has a lot of insulation in the attic so the sound if mostly muffled. But the back porch, right off my bedroom, has no insulation so the sound can be more pronounced.

In a gentle rain, it’s very soothing. In a hard, heavy rain it sounds like a pride of tigers scratching at that metal roof. Determined to get in. On the porch you have to shout to be heard by anyone else there with you.

Old sounds. New sounds. The new become old with time. And new ones continue to pop up. Until the ears grow weary and hear no more.

That’s part of my story. What’s yours?

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Change of Heart

The advertisement had pictures of the items included in the sale. Not everything, but some of the best things that would draw the biggest crowds. And yes, estate sales can get very crowded.

Mid century furniture. Tools. All sorts of items that people want to buy. And some to resell. The pictures that caught my eye were of sailboat models. And a commercial ships big orange life ring. That, I had to have!

It was the greatest thing in the world in my mind. And I knew every other person on the planet would have the same opinion. So being first in line was imperative.

Now if you know me at all, being first in line is not something that ever happens. Not even for free food or alcohol. I was late for my wedding and I will surely be late for my funeral. So, I arrived and was fourth in line.

Something was wrong here though. Normally it’s almost impossible to miss the house having an estate sale. There will be a hundred or so cars parked up and down the street. And lots of people. Sometimes an hour before the sale starts. Or longer.

Today though, I arrived five minutes before show time. And was fourth in line. I knew I had a good chance of getting the ring. Upon entering the house I immediately asked the people running the sale where the life ring was. In the basement. Down I went, before looking at anything else.

Big basement I thought as I descended the stairs. I looked and looked and looked. No life ring. I was the second person to have made it down there, and the other guy didn’t have the thing. I asked the sales staff again and they pointed toward a wall. An empty wall. They were shocked. I was dismayed. It was gone.

Apparently the family of the homeowner had taken it for themselves. After all, it is their stuff. But they were supposed to have taken everything earlier. The sales staff was not amused.

But it was ok with me. I’d been through a downsizing sale with my elderly parents and knew how hard it can be. And I’m sure that as they moved through the house one last time, they saw that life ring and knew something about it that no one else ever would. Something that made it very valuable to them. Maybe their grandfather had sailed on that ship and taken the ring as a souvenir. Who knows? They wanted it. And I didn’t get it.

Things go places, or stay where they are for lots of reasons. Sometimes reasons unknown to us. But good reasons nonetheless.

That’s part of my story. What’s yours?

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