ONLY GOD CAN MAKE A
22 March 2002
This is an entry for the Random Acts of Journaling
Collaboration. One of the prompts for this month was to write about this quote:
The true meaning of life is to plant trees, under whose shade you do not expect to
I could discuss the philosophy behind this statement, but being a practical person, I'd
rather discuss more concrete pictures that this quote brings to mind.
As I've stated here before, I grew up in San Francisco. I don't know from
"gardens" and "trees" and stuff like that. Except for growing The
Zucchini That Ate Davis, I have had few successes as Mrs. Greenthumbs. But we have planted
trees here (well, technically speaking, Walt planted trees, but I did stand back
and say "very nice, dear.")
The first tree we planted was a fruitless mulberry which we planted in the front yard.
I always loved climbing trees when I visited my grandmother, as a kid. I have fond
memories of sitting in a big ol' tree with my cousin, both of us chomping on green apples,
and baring our souls to each other. I wanted a climbing tree. I figured that our kids
would be grown before the tree had grown to the size of a proper climbing tree, but I
decided I wanted it so that our grandchildren would climb in it.
I had the wonderful idea that I would take a picture of the kids standing next to this
bare root tree when it got put in the ground and each year I'd take a picture of them with
the tree so I could see the growth of both--the tree, and the kids.
That was just before the Olympics in 1976. It was the final night of the women's figure
skating competition. Dorothy Hamill was about to take home the gold. We were enjoying the
show when suddenly the house was shaken and there was a huge "BANG" sound. Or
maybe a "crunch" sound.
The first thing we saw when we went outside was that our van ("The Jolly Green
Giant," which met its end several years ago) was rotated 90 degrees and it was pushed
into the wall of the living room--not IN the living room, but it was definitely trying to
On the lawn, on top of our brand new tree, was a car. The driver of the car was running
down the street.
Silly me, I ran into the house to take a picture of the car, so I'd have the license
plate on record. It didn't occur to me that the car was impaled on the tree and there was
no way this baby was moving without some serious mechanical assistance.
We ultimately replaced the tree with another mulberry and it has grown
tall and strong and is the perfect climbing tree...if anybody is ever around to climb it.
One other unrewarding tree experience involves a shade tree in the back yard. We did
want it to grow tall enough that we could enjoy its shade. When the decision of which type
of tree to plant was taking place, I recalled the gorgeous Chinese Pistachio trees which
are planted all over town. In the fall, they are a blaze of color. Reds, oranges and
yellows so vibrant it hurts your eyes. I love to drive down 5th St in October because it
is like a trip through Oz, without the yellow brick road.
So we bought a Chinese pistachio tree.
Eagerly, I waited for the second fall, by which time it had grown enough that it had a
full supply of foliage and I was looking forward to my own display of color.
Well, it's been a lot of years now and we must have the only Chinese Pistachio tree in
the entire city that has never shown any color whatsoever. It goes from green to dull
brown and then the leaves fall. It's a nice tree. But it has not provided me with the
display of color I was hoping for.
There is another tree in town which means a lot to me. It's another Chinese Pistachio,
which is planted on the side of the theatre where the kids all grew up. If you look under
the all the ivy which surrounds it, you'll find a plaque which says it was planted in
memory of David. It was given by the office where I was working at the time. When Paul was
still alive, and working for the City, he made certain to keep the ivy trimmed so
that the plaque showed. But now it's overgrown and very few people know this is a memorial
tree. But we know, and so I have a special place in my heart for that tree. (It hasn't
grown big enough yet to know if it will have glorious fall foliage or not)
On a small hill in front of the theatre stands a very tall pine tree. The tree is very,
very dead. Its needles are gone and it looks pretty pathetic. I've spoken with the city
several times about this tree, and how when it finally comes down, I want to put a tree in
which will be a memorial to Paul. He performed so often at that theatre and it just seems
the perfect place to plant a tree in his memory. Unfortunately, it costs so much to bring
the dead tree down that it may be years before we are able to do this. I need to keep
reminding the city that sooner or later I'm determined that a tree in Paul's memory will
stand on that hill. Perhaps I won't live long enough to sit in its shade, but others will,
and that is very special.