Monday, January 30, 2012

Kentucky Elms

Hopping along the trunk of the downed tree diagonally across from my Capitol Hill house appeared to be the activity of the day in these parts.  Since the homes here are at the century mark, one presumes the tree was as well.

The elms that line our block of Kentucky Avenue, SE are well known, in any case, standing nearly twice the height of most of the houses and big as a wine barrels at the base.

We prize them around here, even having chipped in to inject them with some protective juju a few years ago, in uncharacteristically neighborly fashion. We don't know what caused this one to keel over and just hope it's not Dutch Elm or some other dread disease that might doom the others.

"It was around 100-feet tall," Joe Cartwright opined, rocking back and forth on his heels like a codger, though he's scarcely 60. He's been doing this a lot since his retirement. Joe and his wife Susan have the place across the street from the tree, and so are the ones whose view is most  impacted by our canopy catastrophe. Quietly reviewing the carnage, he said, gesturing heavenward, "These trees are like the ceiling of a cathedral."

I was thinking a chuppa. We're a multicultural lot.

Joe's Whipped Cream Elm in Summer
Pointing out a gnarly specimen near the corner he said,  "Look at that tree. The whipped cream of it!" Then quickly snapped, "don't write that!" as I did.  Reaching for a manlier statement he harrumphed, "That. Is a bent tree."

"You know," he said, continuing to rock, "When I was growing up in Philadelphia, we had six trees like these, three on each side of the street. I was a jerky kid, " he paused, I waited. "I didn't care about anything. But one day I looked up," he paused again, and I waited, " And I thought, This is really beautiful." He nodded, misty-memoried, "I had my first aesthetic experience."

A woman from AP arrives draped in cameras. "I'm waiting for someone to clean it up," she said. Clearly this is an event of citywide importance.

I'm as sad as everyone else, but especially sad because when the tree fell it did not hit anything that would have been usefully destroyed. The bilious green screened porch on the house across from mine, for instance. Or either of our decrepit Mustang convertibles. The elm managed to fall smack between them, squashing a brand new, cherry red,  VW  beetle.  How clean and shiny it was too, right after the rain.

Our cars, according to the Prince, are nearly antique. It is, according to me, extremely doubtful that you'll ever see them displayed at an old car show.

Sometime last year something went pop in the engine of the red '86, the one with the inoperable roof and the crank windows.

It was a brilliant Sunday, and the yellow '87 was in the shop (sigh), and old red (miraculously) started up. So we took it out on one of its rare drives. This was accompanied by much arm waving and I told you so-ing about the car's health (not by me) but as we purred around the corner there was this...noise... and we glided to the curb, and we stopped.

The best one can say about these cars achieving antique status is we won't have to pass the emissions test, which is always a struggle.

Not that we don't care about the environment,we do! We have, in fact, diverted the gutters in the rear of the house so water spills into the garden. (I guess that last we does not rightly belong to me although I directed the placement of the downspout).

What we most particularly care about (and again I do not mean me here) is YOU caring for the environment, because YOU are careless. We, on the other hand, sweep the street and alley, keeping things nice for the neighbors.  (Oh, I guess that "we" does not belong to me either. Though I do stay out of the way and don't complain much about that sweep sweeping noise frustrating my nap).

And the cars are a visible demonstration of our (?) frugality

But this story is not about the cars, no, it is about trees, or tree. The demise of a treasure. Amen.


  1. Sad, though it made for quite the entertaining read! Glad that your house is okay :)

  2. If I could have just one super power it would probably be the power of invisibility. But if I could have a second super power it would likely be the ability to cause trees to fall in exactly the right spot. Of course, with great power comes great responsibility and I'm not sure I am up to the challenge of not dropping trees on my neighbor's yard which consists of nothing but blindingly-bright white rocks.

  3. Chad! I just came across your comment. I don't know why there was no notice...

    As to blindingly bright of my ugly garden posts features the mother lode... how they stay so white is the mystery. Thought! You could plant a black walnut tree and let the sap flow.


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