Updated: Nov 19, 2021
I inherited my love of trees from my father. I have no memory of learning his favorites, yet I know them all: tulip poplar, red bud, sweet gum, hickory, maple, locust, sycamore, oak, dogwood, blue spruce, beech, Norway spruce, buckeye.
Artificial Christmas trees were not allowed at our house, nor were cut trees, as he hated the idea of killing a tree and then decorating it. Instead, he would take me to the nursery every year and let me pick out a live tree that we would take home, decorate, and water. A few days after the holiday, we would plant it in a spot that we had been planning since the day we first brought it home.
The property of the new house is covered in old oaks and maples, a few hickories, gigantic Norway spruces, and an entire field of red bud seedlings, but I wanted to plant more. I've been researching food forests and purchased seedlings, the bulk of which arrived yesterday -- plums, pecans, pears, hazelnuts, chestnuts, and more -- and they had to be planted.
Today was a perfect day for tree-planting, cool and drizzling rain. Being his typically generous self, he offered to help me plant. We took turns digging holes, planting, covering the seedlings with dirt and leaves, tucking them in for winter.
While we worked, he talked about all the trees he had planted at his former homes. And he shared what he loved about planting trees: it's an action bigger than he is, a way to bring something to future generations. Today, it was an action far greater than dementia. He was completely engaged in the task, reminding me of the Chinese proverb that the best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago, but the second-best time is today.
Through the cold and rain and the weight of dirt and mud, he stuck with me, even though I knew he had to be tired, as I was feeling pretty exhausted myself. I even tried to send him in after the trees were planted, but he insisted on helping me cover them with leaves too. He wouldn't stop until I did.
We planted 25 trees today. Trees that will grow and fruit when he is no longer here. And every time I harvest the fruit and the nuts from those trees, I will remember this day.
And I am thankful.