A Joyce Kilmer Angst

04 iciclesLinda Burton Posting From Arkadelphia, Arkansas – Joyce Kilmer loved trees, and so do I. Remember that line “I think that I shall never see, a poem lovely as a tree…”? I’ve been worrying about my trees way too much of late, at complete odds with Mother Nature. She might as well have been an axman, sending all those February ice storms and breaking limbs all over town. What the ice didn’t get, the power company finished, whacking away every straggling branch that dared come anywhere near a power line and forevermore ruining the shape of every hackberry and pine tree that was unfortunate enough to get planted along the Entergy right of way.

I started back in January trying to clear off those choking “exotics” (meaning, non-native plants that will take over a yard if you aren’t careful) that some quick-grow gardener planted long ago. Turn the house into a rental and neglect the yard for a few years and you’ve got a mess on your hands. A mess of privet hedge ten feet tall and as scraggly as a witch’s hideaway, wrapped with wisteria vines that would support both Tarzan and Jane, all underpinned with sneaky English ivy, which is strong enough to grow right through a windowsill. It just wedges 01 Clearing Brushitself through the tiniest crack! You know what I mean. Back down in the ravine, a totally wild and woolly spot at the end of 9th Street, the wisteria has shimmied its way to the top of 60-foot oaks, with no plans to stop twisting and vining and taking over the world.

But not in my yard! Not with White’s Manicured Lawns in town. Quincy White and his brother Dante have chain saws and other devices designed to “stop the madness” and after a few hours in January managed to get a ten-foot area all around the house cleared away. After the February ice storms, their work tripled, this time sawing downed limbs and making huge stacks out front for the city pickup.

My greatest fear during the ice storm was for the giant camellia at the side of the house. 02 Camellia bloomsAbsolutely covered in brilliant rose-colored blooms when the storm struck, one entire side was bent to the ground for days. It must be hardy stock because once the ice melted off, it popped right back up into its 06 camellia downprevious position. Bless you, camellia. The holly tree was all berried up when the storm covered every single berry and leaf with a solid coat of ice; it too was hardy and refused to break. Not so for the pine and the hackberry – the back yard was a war zone of limbs cracking and crashing, followed by piercing shards of ice.

09 brochuresWhat does any of that have to do with capital cities, and my writing? I finally sorted through every single piece of literature I collected on the Journey, reviewing it all and carefully organizing it into folders for easy access at a moment’s whim. During all that I was thinking about Saint Paul, with those covered walkways between buildings protecting Saint Paulians from the winter weather, and ice on the Missouri River near Helena, in that Gates of the Mountain canyon where Lewis & Clark passed through. And for contrast, the Spanish moss on those Tallahassee live oaks curling around in humid warmth, even back in the days of DeSoto. DeSoto passed through what is now Arkadelphia, you know. Maybe even my back yard, I’m not far from the river.

Meanwhile, I kept the heater going full blast and kept my cardinals fed. They are such stunningly perfect ornaments for our trees, I’m not sure why Joyce Kilmer didn’t write about them too.07 cardinals