I killed a tree.
Not intentionally. But my ignorance and indifference sealed its fate.
We moved into our new house last July. It hadn’t rained for weeks and wouldn’t rain for another month. A young Japanese Maple stood alone and unprotected, near the road and beside our driveway. The previous owners must have nurtured it from a sapling to tree adolescence.
A welcoming note greeted us the first time we walked into our new home. Helpful tips and useful information from the former owner. Included in her note was an offer to transplant the Japanese Maple if we didn’t want it. She obviously loved it, and wanted it at her new home.
That tree didn’t ask much of us. It didn’t ask anything. But it needed water. The entire island was dry. Water restrictions in our neighbourhood forbade watering lawns. Some people did anyway, their lush green grass proof of their guilt. But we played by the rules.
Except I didn’t know all the rules. I could have hand watered that tree. But I didn’t. I never gave it a thought. Barely looked at it.
By September, when rain fell, it was too late. My wife said, “that tree is dead,” even though leaves still clung to the branches. It was the first time I’d given the tree more than a brief glance.
It rained a lot last winter. And rained more in the spring. Now I looked at it often. Daily. Hoping to see a bud. Hoping for a sign of life. By April colours and shoots emerged all over our property. But not on the lone maple. I asked my neighbour what he thought. He said the tree was a late bloomer, that it always had been, that it was not dead. But weeks passed and nothing happened.
I took my saw, cut through the base, dug out the roots, hacked it up and threw the remains in a compost bag.
The hole it left behind didn’t remain unfilled for long. We bought another. A tiny one. A different shade of red. It was my daughter’s height. Maybe smaller.
Into the ground it went, surrounded by new soil, mixed with compost and some mulch. And water.
The first few days I looked for signs of death. Brown leaves. Withered limbs. Any indication that the planting had not taken. It grew slowly. Leaves emerged. A lot of them. Small. Muted. Lovely.
Another summer arrived. Another drought, as bad, if not worse than last year. Our lawn is browning. Our yard unbearably hot under the cloudless sky and scorching sun.
Every morning I water our new tree. One or two big cans. Every night my wife or I do it again.
It’s hanging in there. Maybe not thriving, but not dying either. Every day I look at that tree hoping it makes it to the next day.
I don’t want to kill this one.