An Elm Tree

the property was 2 acres. There was always something i hadn’t seen before to discover. It seemed no matter how many times i went exploring i could never comb every inch of it with my eyes. I had probably walked past this tree several times to get to the sumac tree near the gate, and yet i’d never seen it for what it was. It was an elm tree. My very own elm tree. My heart leapt in my chest. I should probably explain why. When i had lived in the city years ago my apartment complex had been full of beautiful old elm trees. The gutters hadn’t been cleaned in years so layer upon layer of dead leaves had fallen into the gutters and decayed into a rich and fertile soil. The grand old elm trees had dropped their seeds into the gutters and created a forest of baby elm trees that sprang up with great enthusiasm from the ripe and ready soil in the gutters. It was my utopia. I felt i was surrounded by my little “roof forest”. Well, i guess this didn’t look good for potential tenants shopping for a place to live and the apartment management soon decided to hire a crew to come in and clean the gutters out. I came home one day to see them scooping all the 6 inch to 1 foot trees into plastic garbage bags and tossing them into their trailer. I was devastated. I actually cried. The tears just came. I couldn’t help it. One of the crew saw me watching them and asked what was wrong. I told him how i had loved being surrounded by the little roof forest and watching them grow towards their parents, ever seeking the sun. He said, “yeah, it is pretty amazing. Ive never seen tree sprouts get that big in such a little amount of dirt. Its a wonder they dont fall over.” I hung my head in defeat. They had a job to do. It wasnt their fault. It was just something i would have to accept. I would have to get used to the bare clean gutters. The man looked at me again, “hey, you want some of those trees? I mean, we were contracted to get them out of the gutters. There’s nothing that says what we have to do with them once we get them down.” My eyes lit up, “yes, thank you, thank you!” He took me over to the trash bags and said, “go ahead and pick out the biggest 3 you can find. Maybe they’ll be more likely to survive. They’ve been in the truck a little while. They might go into shock.” I picked out the biggest 3 baby elm trees i could find with most of their leaves intact. He was right, they were in shock. I planted them in good dirt in big tree pots and placed them on my 15 foot apartment porch with my other potted plants. They were the gem of my porch garden for many months and they continued to grow towards their parents once they recovered from the shock of transplant. Then the winter months came. One by one they began to drop all their leaves. I figured this was the natural way, since the adult trees dropped their leaves for winter. But, in the spring they did not sprout new ones. In the spring they stood just as bare and gray as they had been all winter. I snapped off the end of a branch. It was dry and cracked easily between my fingers. The tree was not pumping any life-supporting moisture to that branch anymore. I snapped off a bigger piece. Dry. Hollow. I continued until i was at the base of the baby elm tree. The whole thing was dead. All 3 were dead. I had killed them at some point without even knowing. And that was the end of my elm trees. The following year the parent elms would seed in my hanging pots and i would rip out the actual plants to give them a chance to grow, but they would grow to a certain height and die. So, i let the dream of having an elm tree go. It was their leaves that attracted me to them. They had the most curious flat little leaves with ridged edges, smaller than a penny. With leaves so little they somehow managed to look big. I stared at the elm tree at my feet. Though it was a baby, it was much bigger than the trees i had tried to coax in my little apartment pots. This one had nothing to do with me. It would likely survive. My heart did a little dance as i dreamed of returning to the spot i stood in 15 years and looking at a taller elm tree. I smiled at the thought.

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