Wednesday, November 08, 2006


Me, in front of my grapefruit tree in my backyard. I have a trio of citrus trees--orange, tangerine, and grapefruit. The day my daughter was snapping this picture, bees were buzzing around me like crazy. They love those luscious-smelling blossoms. As I dodged them, I let out little yelps, my feet dancing beneath me, me hollering, "Hurry! Snap it, quick."


As our family trekked through North Carolina’s Joyce Kilmer National Forest, we stopped at a large plaque dedicated to Kilmer, the widely-acclaimed poet. My hands clasped at chest-level, I read aloud his famous poem: “I think that I shall never see, A poem as lovely as a tree.”

As I stood in the cooling shade of towering oaks and pines that day, I thought of my deep love for trees. I’ve always enjoyed planting and growing trees in our yard. When our daughters were small, I liked to envision them happily splashing in their wading pool as I sat under a sprawling tree, sipping iced tea and reading a magazine. And so my quest became to fill the bare yard of our newly-built home with trees.

First, we hired a professional nurseryman to plant two good-sized oaks. But the yard was huge, and I wanted more. A green-thumbed friend gave me two small dogwoods, and I was delighted. Visions of pink and white spring blossoms danced in my head.

Two weeks later, they were dead. Was it my fault, I wondered? Did I water enough? Too much? Should I have prepared the soil better?

“Oh well,” my husband Milton said. “It’s much easier and quicker to mow the yard without trees. It’s a straight shot. Let’s not plant anymore.”

But I was determined.

“What’s a fast-growing shade tree?” I asked at a nearby nursery.

“Carrotwoods or rosewoods,” the clerk said, and so two tall carrotwoods were the next to grace our yard.

I had high hopes. One week passed. Two. Then three. They were actually living! It was fall, and I just knew by spring that I’d have a little shade. But December brought an unusual cold spell to Florida, and my beautiful carrotwoods died.

The clerk forgot to tell me that carrotwoods and rosewoods were especially sensitive to cold weather.

Then, my mother gave me two more dogwoods, and I wrapped them as gently as a baby, in wet newspaper, and carried them in our trunk for 200 miles.

Sad to say, they met their death by Milton’s misguided weedeater. “Oops,” he said with a twinkle in his eye.

Mother’s Day rolled around, and Milton and the girls gave me a beautiful sweet gum and a sugar maple.

I never did know what killed them.

After that, I decided on a camphor. Their trunks would make delightful climbing for the girls, I reasoned, and I did a little joy jig as we planted it. But another cold spell got that one. I think.

Back to the nursery.

“Want these?” the owner asked me, gesturing at two tall, yellow-sprigged trees in 20-gallon pots. “Acacia trees. I’m going out of business.”

“Is the pope Catholic?” I said with a grin. “Is grass green?”

Two hours later, the man kindly helped me load the two giants onto a borrowed truck, and off I sped, happy as could be with my bounty--and free at that!

“Who’s going to plant them?” Milton thundered as he reluctantly helped me lug them off the truck. “Do you realize the work involved? The holes would have to be very deep, and our soil is as hard as concrete. I’d have to have help, and maybe special tools. . .”

“We’ll find a way,” I bubbled.

Sure enough, a friend of ours was a basketball coach, and when he found out about our problem, he brought four of the tallest young men you’ve ever seen to our house. Within two hours, my trees were planted--although the boys were covered in mud.

And the trees actually lived!

As the next few years passed and my plight became known far and wide, we were offered many small trees. We never turned them down.

Those trees met their death in different ways: lack of water, too much water, cold spells, dry spells, weedeater attacks, lawnmower blades. But my quest continued...


Hallelujah! We moved to a neighborhood profuse with towering oak trees.

“Trees!” I shouted, when we first saw the house we ended up buying. It was surrounded by oaks. “My dream’s come true. Beauty. Majesty. Glorious shade! I have my trees!”

Trees, I soon found out, that shed leaves…

Leaves that needed raking.

Leaves that clogged our gutters.

Leaves that dropped all over our circle driveway.

Leaves that fell on our cars and left a sticky sap.

For nine years.

Long ones...


Have you ever heard this statement: "The grass is always greener on the other side"?

In your spouse, do you ever wish for something you don't have? Squelch those feelings because if you ever get it, I can just about guarantee that it won't be what you thought it was.

'Nuff said?


At 11:14 AM, Blogger Cynthia Ruchti said...

One of the most powerful insights for a healthy marriage is the knowledge that every strength is a weakness waiting to happen and every weakness is a strength that needs encouraging. Is my husband annoyingly quiet? Would I like it better if he were non-stop chatty? Is he slow to finish home projects? Would I like it better if he ignored the kids in order to fine-tune that bathroom faucet? Is he stubborn? Would I like it better if he waffled in decision-making? Thanks for the trees-equal-raking reminder, Kristy!

At 12:18 PM, Blogger Kristy Dykes said...

Oh, man, Cynthia, your comments are good! Thank you. One of the points of my post yesterday, "How to Love Your Husband," is to concentrate on his good points and overlook his bad. That's what we HAVE to do, both wives and husbands, to make it in marriage. We're two different individuals in a marriage, with two different ways of doing things or thinking about things, but we have to allow room for these differences (or weaknesses).

At 2:34 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love the comparison that you used.... it's GREAT!!!!

At 9:07 AM, Blogger Kristy Dykes said...

Thanks, Anonymous! Glad you commented.


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