One Small Thing

September. Boots, raingear, gloves, old clothes. We’re ready. Four women. Trish, the arborist, is our leader. She’s already dug shallow holes for planting. Small pots with spruce and birch samplings wait in the bed of an old wagon. A storm a few years ago toppled most of the mature trees in this neighborhood park. Since then, non-native grasses and garden cast-aways have taken over. Our job: replenish the forest with native trees. It’s simple but delicate work. Wiggle the young tree from its container, spread the roots gently with your fingers, churn up the hole with a forked trowel, lower the tree, pack loosely with dirt, then baptize it with creek water. Finally, cover the surrounding ground with grass to keep the rain from washing it away. Since the baby birches have already lost most of their leaves, they’re naked in their new homes. But the roots are dense and tough, so I have hope. Each spruce sapling is a tiny perfect Christmas tree. “Grow strong,” I tell each one. Rich black soil, fat earthworms, lots of water, our tender hands. That’s all we have to offer. When we stand up on shaky knees, we’ve planted twenty-two trees. For a moment, we’ve forgotten wars, pandemics, and human cruelty. Sometimes all you can do is one small thing. 

Blog: One Small Thing