Tree of Life

Planting for the future.

photograph by Jill Lang | Dreamstime

Once upon a time, I bought a tree. I never thought a tree could be something you would ever have to have ASAP, but it turns out I was wrong. I needed to get that tree planted inmediatamente.

When my house was built in 1950, there was a small porch on the side. At some point in the next 15 years, the original owners closed it up and made a room out of it. Unfortunately, they didn’t add a window to the front of the house where the porch had been, leaving a third of the house without any windows — a vast, white vinyl-siding wasteland. Instead, they put some shutters up where a window would logically go.

The free-floating shutters looked goofy, but my wife and I lived with it while we dealt with more pressing home improvements. Then, we finally got around to taking the shutters down.

If unattractive sights had smells, this one would be “stank.” The siding had been faded by the sun except where the shutters had been, which left two giant rectangles that looked like eyes — eyes that seemed to track you, judge you, and find you wanting. (Or maybe that’s just me. I’ll ask my therapist.)

So, yes, a tree was needed right away, to break up that expanse of windowless house and to hide the unsightly business beneath.

My wife, daughter, and I traveled to a local nursery, and after looking at lots of trees and getting advice (based on the amount of sunlight available where the tree would be and the amount of space it would have next to the house), we settled on a “stellar pink” hybrid dogwood, a tree that would grow two-dimensionally — horizontally and vertically, but not toward the house.

The purchase seemed significant. This tree was something that I could put in the ground and that might very well outlast my time as owner of the house, that might even outlive me, period. I can look up at the giant oak tree in my front yard, planted the year the house was built more than 60 years ago. Might some future homeowner look at what is now my humble little dogwood and wonder about the people who planted it?

Later the same day I planted the tree came some bad news: My best friend’s dad, John K. McCarthy of Collierville, had died.

I thought about my humble tree again and about the big oak that was planted just four years after John was born. It struck me again how things we do have a way of living on independent of us. John was survived by many loved ones and a family that continues to branch out and bear fruit.

The people who planted the oak are long gone. But the tree remains a testament to their lives. 

Greg Akers is editor of MBQ: Inside Memphis Business and a frequent contributor to Memphis magazine.

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