Extending Family

Pink nectarine ‘Fantasia’ flowers on the tree in early Spring

The two least predicted are the two most in need of a trim, and they are the plum trees – one Sunburst plum, and one Bluebird plum. I originally thought that they would struggle the most because of their penchant for sandy soil over clay, but perhaps the leftover patio sand tossed into the bottom of their planting holes fooled them. They are currently out-of-control renegades whose craggily arms attempt a ghoulish canopy over the driveway.

The other two more refined individuals in queue for a weekend trim are the two apple trees out back offsetting the short winding path to the patio. They are the Harlequin apple – rounded and plump like an upturned apple itself, and the Liberty apple, whose limbs grow straight out, then boast right-angle offshoots straight up. Two of a kind, but completely different in shape and growing pattern.

Our fifth tree was the heartbreaking casualty of the five and it was all my fault. She was a nectarine tree with the most beautiful flowers of them all. We lost her last summer to my enthusiastic over-pruning too late in the season.

The trees were our gift to each other four years ago for our twenty-fifth wedding anniversary. We picked them out at the co-op and planted them that spring. They are Harley, Libby, Reenie, Sunny, and Toby, named after the strain of fruit they each produce, and they are – coincidentally – in alphabetical order from east to west. Four of them produce beautiful blossoms that beckon to birds and insects in spring and summer, then evolve into a delicious banquet for the squirrels come fall harvest. Reenie still adds woody contrast to the lot in her own way.

This weekend will be the first spell outside with spring attention in mind and heart, and that is a welcomed thing. Pruning, puttering, and pondering about how much, what to plant, and where.

Prune, putter, ponder.

Apportioned peace.


If I had been a few feet taller I could have peered inside to see who lived there. With luck, maybe even lifted myself up and in, dropping onto soft mulch and humus that surely lined the yawing hole in the old silver maple. Instead – as usual – I settled for the low-hanging branch on a nearby dogwood, walking feet up the trunk at a dangle, swinging a leg over and hefting myself up and onto the mottled branches above.

There have been many other trees. There was the cherry that overhung the back side of the house. It was an easy climb; its raised scar-like ridges making temporary impressions on my bare hands and legs, and lasting ones on my memory. It was best up there when the serrated leaves were deep green and the yellow cherries were ripe to pick, even though birds and squirrels always claimed first fruits.

One summer the whole gaggle of us neighborhood kids lived in a copse of trees up on the corner. Each claiming a perch, we embellished leafy territories with makeshift thrones of remnant boards and fistfuls of nails hammered home into accepting limbs. Stretching gangly appendages up and around redolent limbs of wood, our adventures unfolded in a hidden world, suspended between earth and sky over days and weeks.

Nowadays, sentinel branches beyond the frosty windowpane offer a striated view of the wintery world two stories below. Soon red buds dotting twiggy limbs will yield to leaves, and our small corner bedroom will disappear behind living green lace, a perfectly familiar hideaway in imagined secrecy of sorts.

A treehouse never gets old.