An Observation exercise from my Summer 2010 creative writing class. The assignment: Same Tree 4 Days in a row.
Day 1 – Saturday, June 19
I am standing in the kitchen because I am too lazy to go outside. Also because I am still wearing my jammies. It is 8:30 pm and I haven’t left the house today. It is close to dusk, but still light enough to see the tree. It sits in a copse of trees lining the parking lot next to our house. We share this parking lot with the elderly residents of the Old High School and some municipal vehicles. Our landlord has three reserved spots of which we were assigned one. Our landlord has one car, but yet requires the second spot in case they have guests. (He is blind, his wife is the only one who drives, and as it follows they have only one car.)
The tree is dead. A dead oddball, nearly as tall as most of the other trees around it. The branches are bare and silvery compared to the dark green of the adjacent pines. Its branches look like silver fingertips. The bark is worn near the bottom of the tree. From the ground to at least 4 feet up.
Day 2 – Sunday, June 20
It’s father’s day. I am waiting in the car, with the AC blasting, waiting for my husband. I can see the tree in my rearview mirror. A woman with a halo of white hair is laying under it, looking in my direction. She is in the shade. My mirror constricts my view of the tree; I can only see the first 10 feet of it. From this angle I can see that the bark has fallen away from up further up on the tree. A little girl in pink, with white-blonde hair, just came to get the woman and they walked away, toward the buildings on the right side of foster street.
Sunday part 2
I am now sitting 10 feet from the tree in my ancient folding Shakespeare chair, the best chair of its kind that I’ve ever bought. It’s hard to get comfortable typing though. My arms don’t reach. The tree is even more apparently dead now. Looking up through the branches I can see that most of the bark has peeled off, leaving the yellow-white wood exposed. There is a bit of bark stretching about 4 feet from the bottom to the bottom of a fork in the tree. There is also some bark at the bottom. I wish I knew what kind of tree it was, my dad would know. I never learned how to type trees. Was never interested in learning how. I suspect it is an evergreen tree, most of the other trees around it are, at least the bigger ones. The tree next to it is ailing too, but it still has some tree needles fanning out on its branches. A little bird is chirping and hanging out on the neighbor tree, looking for food. He is so close, I can’t believe the clicking of my AlphaSmart 3000 didn’t scare him. He is white and blue and very small. I never learned to type birds either. The trees that line the drive and parking lot on Foster Street border a small baseball diamond. A few times a week kids play various levels of baseball on it. When they come, they all park in our parking lot. Where are the bleachers? There used to be a set of bleachers for the spectators to use. They’re gone now. Now that I look at the area, it looks like new fences were added in front of the player’s bleachers. I wonder if the bleachers will be replaced with a better model. To the right of the tree are two port-a-potties, green and blue. I assume they are there for the players. The air is full of sounds of birds chirping, I can see a small one flitting in the trees. Is it my friend from before? A woman, someone who lives in the Old High School, is sitting in her car and talking to someone else. On the phone? Or is someone else in the car. It would be rude to look, wouldn’t it? People walk by on the pathway that connects the Riverbank Park to downtown Westbrook. This small field my tree is perched on is called Foster Field. We should really hang out on it more often. Most people don’t have a field as a lawn.
I would say the tree is dead. It looks like a Y, with two small branches poking out from where the y-shape begins, like arms seeking supplication. Wow. A bird is perched high right above my head and making the most beautiful sounds. He moved, now he’s behind me. Which is good, because I was concerned for a minute that he’d be pooping on my head.
If I were a bird watcher, this’d be a great place to sit. My neighbors must think I’m nuts, typing on my AlphaSmart 3000 on my chest.
Day 3 – Monday June 21
I am precariously balanced on the top of the stairs. I am afraid I’ll fall, but I think this will be an interesting way to see the tree. A car drives across the parking lot. A jeep. It came from over by the Post Office, people often use our parking lot as a way to eventually turn left, the Post office parking lot only allows a right-hand turn on exiting. I can only make out the outline of the tree if I put my forehead right up to the screen in our stairs window. We leave this window open all the time in the summer so our kitty will have a place to perch when we’re gone for the day.
Edmund is listening to Johnny Cash in his office, in the distance I can hear cars driving on Main Street and the falls near the center of town. The street light near the trees leaves them in shadow. The light in the parking lot highlights Edmund’s car, but it is partly in shadows from the copse of trees. Dark is the great equalizer. I can’t tell if the tree is alive or dead. It is only with great effort I can tell it’s even there.
Day 4 – Tuesday June 22
This morning I took several pictures of the tree so I could “observe” it from work. I’d planned on maybe observing it this morning before work, but as I feared, I woke up too late, and resorted to plan B. I took pictures of both sides of the tree, facing and facing away from my house. I tried not go get too close so that I would not smell or step into the dog crap that I saw under the tree as I packed up from Sunday’s observation. But keeping with the spirit of the assignment, I took the pictures this morning, right before I got into my car and went to work.
Looking toward my house, the barkless state of most of tree is even more apparent. I think that is because instead of a lush green field, the tree faces a parking lot and mint green building, which cause the white and tan bare portions of the tree to stick out. This could also be due to the photograph. Beyond the tree is, of course, the parking lot. My car is to the right, obscured by a tree to the left of the dead tree. To the right of our tree (the dead tree) is the stop sign at the edge of the parking lot and Foster Street is beyond. The mint green house that borders the opposite side of the parking lot is my house. We live on the second floor. The front porch is on the left, we use that to get into the house. Our trash barrel, thoughtfully provided by the City of Westbrook, is in front of our door–we have no room for it otherwise. Our recycling bin is out of sight, just inside the door. There are 5 windows visible from this vantage point. Two of these windows are shaded, they belong to our landlords. The other three are open. From this distance they all look black. The dead tree’s lowest, stubby branch looks like it is pointing to the window at the bottom of the stairs.
An abrupt ending, I know. If you were to observe a tree, where would you go?