Washington Evening Journal

Fairfield Ledger   Mt. Pleasant News
Neighbors Growing Together | Aug 19, 2018

Empty Nest: Trees

By Curt Swarm

From my bedroom window, as I lie in bed, I watch the sunrise pour golden honey over the tops of trees, painting orange clothes on brown limbs, dressing them for a busy day.  It is so peaceful, I could lie in bed forever.  Buddy doesn’t budge either, watching the outdoors as intently as me, knowing he is about to be chucked outside.  
The vernal sky is streaked a milky blue and gold, like a smile starting to form.  Squirrels jump from branch to branch, acrobats twirling through the air, catching the slimmest of branches, bending them double, like a fish on a pole.  Buddy whines deep in his throat, and muffles a weak growl.  Around and around, up and down the trunks, the squirrels chase each other in a game of territorial food rights.  They are impatient for their morning ear of corn.  The crumbs they leave behind are gleaned in shifts of woodpeckers and cardinals, their splash of color a pleasing contrast to the winter-trying-to-turn-green.  My reindeer sculpture (some people think it’s a rabbit), in a stand of decorative grass that I transplanted from a farm ditch, looks alive and ready to bolt.  All from the view of my bedroom window.  I prop myself up on one arm.  Psalm 118:24 comes  to mind: “This is a day the Lord hath made, Let us rejoice and be glad in it!”
I grab up Buddy and carry him on his back to the gallery window.  He struggles weakly to be turned over.  I blow on his belly and he gives my face a good morning washing.   Chucking him out, I leave the window open for his return.  I see the locust bush that I planted several years ago.  It used to be a locust tree that I had planted along with two others—the locust being my favorite tree.  This one decided to die.  Why?  I dunno.  However, the locust, being a rather hardy tree, sprouted back up from the roots.  The tiny sprout was difficult to see and I mowed it off a couple of times.  After about the third whacking, I graced it with a stake so that I could see it.  The locust rewarded me by sprouting strongly back, not as the thornless locust tree that it had been, but as a locust bush, replete with thorns.  
What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.  
I see the clubhouse that my neighbor kids have built in the corner of my backyard.  It does my heart good to know that children have built a secret hideaway on my property.  They have erected cute little signs in childish scrawls, “No trespassing!  Enter at your own risk!”  They have also mounted an old mailbox on the tree that also serves as a tree house.  We leave notes for each other in the mailbox.  I write, “Look under wood crate for special treat.”  They write back, “Thank you, Mr. Swarm.  Will we be in the newspaper?”
You betcha.
The tree house is in a huge old Chinese elm, that is in a line of younger Chinese elms that mark my property line.  Chinese elms are a scraggly, dirty tree, with small leaves, and are not nearly as prized as the shadier, American elm.  The Chinese elms are also quaintly called “piss elms.”  It’s sort of a shame, as the Chinese elms did not succumb to the deadly Dutch elm disease as did their cousin.  Plus, the piss elms provide great shade in the heat of summer for the back of my house and yard.
I see that a sparrow has gotten into my house through Buddy’s open window.  Dang!  It is flying around the house slamming into windows and evading capture.  Buddy enters the house through the open window and gleefully joins the chase.  The sparrow makes one final dash and knocks itself out against a picture window.  Before Buddy can get to it, I pick it up and chuck it out on the front porch.  It comes to, and flutters away.  
Interesting.  I wanted to get out of the house, the sparrow wanted in.

Have a good story?  Call or text Curt Swarm in Mt. Pleasant at 319-217-0526, email him at curtswarm@yahoo.com, or visit his website at www.empty-nest-words-photos-and-frmes.com.  Curt also reads his columns at www.lostlakeradio.com.