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2 Birds, a Cat and a Tree

Having grown up in Texas, I'm no stranger to long, hot summers. (I used to think about people summering in New England with some envy. They could wear shirts with sleeves and not suffer!) Our past two Texas summers, however, have been more than, other than long and hot. It makes my thoughts heavier to know that other states have endured the same conditions that Texans have. The worst of those summer conditions is drought.

A cloudy day--something I always appreciated for the way in which its light reveals deeper saturation of colors--is now a source of joy and gratitude for me. It's not rain, but it at least shields our struggling vegetation and dehydrated wildlife from the sun's relentless searing. This year, as last, I built "clouds" for some of my plants. The New Dawn rose has a wood and cardboard tent over its western side. 

Even the lantana, a plant that thrives in hot summers, is now covered. If I had something large enough to shield my mimosa tree, it would be there now, protecting its fronds. Even with hours of legal hand watering and hose-soaking, each branch has brown fringes. The verbena are long gone, skeletal, blossomless. And not for lack of water. 

A few weeks ago, I rescued a baby grackle. Later, I found an adolescent Mississippi Kite in my front yard. It crept beneath the boxwood at the edge of my front porch, as shady a place as possible.  I misted it lightly with water from the garden hose, and it began to move in place and look a little more lively. I called the wonderful local Wild Bird Rescue Center. "Bring it in," they said. "This is the 71st Kite we've received this week." 

A neighborhood cat came by on one of our 113-degree days. We got water and food to her quickly. By the next day, she appeared her normal self. We have not seen her for about 5 days now, however. And I wonder if the heat has had its way with her?

One of the reasons my blogging has been light this summer is that I have to spend 1 to 2 hours a day watering by hand. Due to water restrictions, we can run sprinklers once a week, and that's not enough to keep established plants and trees alive. Many of my neighbors let their trees die last summer. I find this reprehensible. The tallest, most spectacular tree on our street, the one that blazed into glorious red in the fall, is now a dead skeleton, as is another great oak in the yard next to it. On the corner are two dead Bradford pear trees. And in an adjacent yard, another enormous oak, dead, its scraggly limbs raking the hot sky. 

The city continues to water the trees in the parks. Two weeks ago, though, I noticed that one tree in the park across the street from my house had turned a sickly yellow. For some reason, it is not on the park's watering system. I wish I'd noticed this sooner, but I thought it might not be too late to save it, even so. After watering my yard each night, I pull my long hose across the street and water this tree.  It's an extra 20 minutes to half an hour each day on my chore-set, but I don't mind. It's turned into a bit of Zen meditation for me, the standing, the watering, watching the water, at last, bubble up from the ground, letting me know that there is now some water under the surface, surrounding the roots. As I water, I think of the many mornings I've looked out my window at this tree, what pleasure it has given me, what beauty it adds to my world. 

One night, we were ringed by thunder and lightning for an hour, but never visited by rain. The next night, the same. No rain. Once the lightning disappeared, I dragged my hose across the street, thinking: "I am this tree's only rain." God willing, may that rain be sufficient for that one tree. I could not save all the trees on my street, but this one, this one, God--as I was privileged to do for the baby grackle, the wandering cat, the adolescent Kite--let me save this one.


Your prose sounds beautifully poetic, and what an angel you are to water the tree.
And that tree has been an angel to me!

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