Tree battle

A maple tree grows in front of my house, between the sidewalk and the street.

The tree was planted as a spindly sapling in 1960.  The next year, the city widened the street, restricting the growth potential of the tree. In 1982 a vehicle swiped the tree trunk. Ten years ago, the city removed (with no great care) a large branch, nearly a secondary trunk, growing to the southwest over the street.  In 2010, a fierce rain and wind storm tore a number of branches, large and small, from the north side of the tree (the side facing the house).

The tree has survived all of these malign attentions and is now 3 stories high.

In 1998, a neighbor planted an oak tree about 50 feet from the maple, also between the sidewalk and the street.  Six years ago, a vehicle hit the oak and ran.  (One hoped the damage to the vehicle was extensive.)

In the past 2 years, the maple has been seen to grow towards the oak.  Of course, this tends to balance it following its truncation and wind damage.  It also seems intent on squelching that oak.  I suppose the roots of each sense the other with chemical receptors, but whatever the means, the goal of the maple seems clear:  conquest.  Each spring the maple puts out seeds and leaves.  Each fall it withdraws its sugars from the leaves and drops them. This year it is also dropping seeds in the fall.  The branch extending to the west may well have grown 6 feet that direction this year alone.

I find it impossible to root for the oak tree.

Poems to my daughter

(I stumbled on these typed sheets [!] today, written between 1972 and 1977 to my young daughter, aged 6 to 11. I’m  posting them in their chronological sequence.)

The Awkward Aardvark Song

Comes the awkward aardvark
lumbering along,
singing in a high, shrill voice
The Awkward Aardvark song:

“Aardvark!  Aardvark!
I am the awkward aardvark!
I’m not a dog.  I’m not a ram.
I’m not a bird or shark.
I’m simply what I say I am —
an arrogant awkward aardvark.”

The Man In the Moon

The man in the Moon, you see,
got there by climbing a tree.
Reaching the top
he neglected to stop
and climbed on for a mile or three.

“Gadzooks!” the old man said.
(An expression he once had read.)
“I’ve climbed too far,
I’m out on a star,
or is it the Moon instead?”

“Well, this will be my home,
and around the world we’ll roam.
The Moon and I
will travel the sky
to smile on land and foam.”


A girl by arithmetic bent
to her father tearfully went.
She studied quite hard
in the house and the yard
till she knew what the numbers meant.

Still she studied each day on her own,
and in multiplication shone.
Though bothered by Dog,
enchanted by Frog,
she subtracted her pain,
added her gain
and divided the prime Unknown.


Spring lives short and green,
slow in coming, hardly seen
but felt as a cat feels rain
before it comes and plays mean.

Summer slips quietly in
taking the place of Spring,
with days bright as a goldfish fin
and evenings when a nighthawk sings.

Autumn casts a magic song:
colored trees and frosted ground,
warm days bright and cool nights long;
known to the wind by a leaf’s falling sound.

The Winter rains a chilling gray
to teach the marigold decay.
The marigold retreats to rise
in time, to be a Spring surprise.