White Pine Memories

The white pine in our back yard was never a beautiful tree. It didn’t provide a nice blanket of shade, only spotty patches. In fact, I always thought it was more a nuisance than anything. It grew tall and disproportionately wide, and dropped hundreds upon hundreds of tiny little pine cones into the grass. The pine cones always seemed to burrow into the lawn, causing a hazard for anyone wandering around the yard barefoot, which I tend to do.

Jack bought two of these trees during the first year we were in our house. We were young, didn’t have a lot of money, and had a brand new baby. The trees were cheap, and he planted one in the front yard and one in the back. They were never pretty, but they helped reduce the vast expanse of nothingness until we could afford to improve the landscaping.

A beautiful maple as well as a flowering crab-apple tree were eventually added to the front yard. I always wished for a prettier, leaf-bearing tree in the back too. For many years, the kids swing set took up the only other available space. Later it was one of those things that was always on the list of home improvements, but forever low on the priority list … until disease struck the lone pine tree. It started showing signs last summer. By this spring, it was good and dead.

This long, Memorial Day weekend provided the opportunity to take the tree down. Jack sawed off as many of the branches as he could and hauled them away late last week. Then on Saturday, he managed the chain saw, cutting notches in just the right places low on the tree trunk. Chesney and I held a rope, guiding and pulling the old tree down into the yard where it wouldn’t fall on the shed, the deck or the house.

It’s never been a secret that I wasn’t a fan of that tree. When it was down, and the clean-up work was finished, Jack asked if I was happy. “Happy” wasn’t exactly what I was feeling. The removal of the tree left a slight emptiness both in the yard and surprisingly, in me.

The tree wasn’t merely a tree. Even though I always thought it was ugly, it had become a part of our days here in this home. It was a refuge to many birds over the years. It was second base for countless numbers of the kids’ wiffle ball games. Lucy circled that tree daily as the squirrels she chased sought refuge high above where she couldn’t reach them and they joyfully taunted her.

It feels strange to see the openness where the tree once stood. Before the summer is gone, I plan to design a fire pit in the place where the stump remains. I have visions of sitting around a bonfire with family and friends, sharing stories and roasting marshmallows. We’ll add new family memories to the wiffle ball memories.

A new tree will eventually be planted elsewhere in the yard. We’ll make a new place for the birds to rest and entertain us with their songs, a new squirrel-chasing track for Lucy, something that years down the road, promises to offer shade.

As so many other things in this life have taught me, the loss of the tree offers yet another example of the ways that life always goes on.

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Deepening Our Roots

I feel guilty for not having written in so long! Of all the things I like to do in my spare time, writing is the one thing to which I used to be truly dedicated. It’s been hard to find the time these past few months as we’ve been putting an addition on our house.

The addition will be our new living room. Along with it, came a new deck to the back yard and a million other little things. We’ve spent the last four months talking windows, siding, decking, lighting, and discussing what we want in a gas fireplace. The house is in a constant state of chaos.

It’s amazing how one fairly significant home improvement project turns into a domino effect of smaller projects. We had a knock-down ceiling done in the addition. And then decided to replace all of the popcorn ceilings in the main level with new knock-down ceilings. What a mess! But the ceilings look GOOD! The drawback? It’s nearly impossible to spray a new ceiling and stay perfectly within the borders. If we had leftover paint in the color of every room, we could touch up the top edges of the walls, but we don’t. Well, a fresh coat of paint will be nice. We’ll get to that … eventually.

And as long as we had to put windows in the new addition, why not replace all of the windows in the house? Okay, to be honest, we’ve had BAD windows for years and we had planned all along to replace them when we started this addition. But installing new windows meant removing all of the trim work, staining the new windows, (which hasn’t been done yet,) and replacing all of the trim work, (which also hasn’t been done yet.) We pulled off the old window blinds which consisted of varying levels of quality, depending on our finances at the time they were purchased. Most have been thrown away. I bought cheap, room-darkening curtains for the bedrooms and hung them on tension rods until the staining and trim work is done. They do the trick until I can figure out what we want for permanent window treatments.

This weekend, the hardwood floor was installed. Now to find an area rug. And some furniture. I have visions of a cozy, sectional sofa!

While all this house stuff goes on, the yard stuff falls to the back burner. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve talked about the list of chores we need to address next spring. There’s a tree that needs to come down, gardens that need attention, and landscaping that will have to be replaced in the aftermath of the construction. Also, it bothers me that the shed is not the color of the new siding. Jack says he’s not spending the money to put new siding on a shed. I’ll get over it.

Really though, I’m not complaining. In the back of my mind, I always wondered if Jack and I would stay in this house for the long haul. (There was never any doubt in his mind, but I have always wanted better living space.) With this addition, the house will be everything I ever hoped it would be. My kids and their significant others … and maybe someday, some grandchildren … can come visit and we’ll have a great space to relax together, or celebrate holidays.

It’s been a productive few months. We have gone from this …

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… to this.

 

Every day with this project is an adventure, and I always have something new to look forward to… even if that means trying to make dinner in a dusty kitchen. The dust is never-ending!

Jack hired a crew of guys to help him build this addition. (He knows “a guy” for every type of project – electrical, sheet rock, you name it.) They all have day jobs, and are doing this outside of their normal work hours. The upside is that we’re saving so much money over hiring a contractor to do the work for us. The downside is that many days, the workers are here working over the dinner hour. I’ve forgotten what it’s like to relax in the quiet of my own home, but those days will be back soon enough. And since the guys are spending all this time away from their own families, what I lack in manual labor skills, I make up for in cooking for a hungry crew who is always grateful for a hot meal. They have worked so hard and everything is turning out just beautifully!

There is a certain satisfaction in this process, slow as it may seem at times. It will all be so worth it in the end.