1. DIG A ROUNDED HOLE AT LEAST TWICE THE WIDTH OF THE ROOT BALL.
Find the shovel, begin to dig. Stop digging, measure the root ball then measure the hole. Measure precisely. Be aware how your wife points out your careless attention to detail. Tell yourself that you are planting this tree any way you want, and your wife can keep her opinion to herself. Feel smug and righteous. Consider the reasons why all of a sudden it’s so important to make sure this is done right. Begin to sweat and notice your neighbor, Bob, is drinking beer and yelling at his kids to shut the fuck up. Wish that Bob would shut the fuck up. Begin to feel that twinge in your shoulder. Take a break. Go to the kitchen for water and an aspirin.
2. CENTER THE ROOT BALL IN THE HOLE AND MAKE SURE THE ROOT FLARE IS AT OR SLIGHTLY ABOVE THE RIM OF THE HOLE. BE SURE TO WATER BEFORE PLANTING TO LOOSEN THE ROOTS AND MAKE SURE THAT THE HOLE IS CLEAN OF ANY ORGANIC DEBRIS SUCH AS TWIGS, LEAVES, OR PINE CONES.
Get down on your knees and with your bare hands scoop everything out of the hole. Note the sweet, mud-pie smell of the damp dirt, watch earthworms wiggle to safety. Wonder how much earthworm excrement you are getting on your hands. Look at your hands, wipe them on your jeans. Put the tree in the hole. It’s a black cherry like the one you had in the yard when you were a kid. Picture the flowers that bloomed that one year at Mother’s Day. Recall how they smelled like spring. See your mother, who is now dead, smile at the flowers you gave her, along with burned toast, Cheerios, and scorched eggs for breakfast. Realize you are now too big to hide in the branches when this tree matures. Regret this.
3. WHILE HOLDING THE TREE UPRIGHT, FILL THE HOLE WITH THE DISPLACED SOIL AND PACK WELL TO ELIMINATE EXCESS AIR POCKETS.
Let the tree tip at an angle while you get the shovel you left on the porch. Return, scoop the dirt into the hole. Realize the hole is too deep. Pull the tree out, add more dirt, then put the tree in again. Attempt to ignore Bob who is now yelling at his dog whimpering near the fence. Agonize whether you were that big of an asshole before you stopped drinking. Resist the urge to go over there and knock Bob on his ass. Hope his kids will be OK, know they likely will not be. Try to remember your dad. Recall the smell of beer, cigarettes, and Jovan Musk for Men. See him wearing his favorite denim jacket and the back of his head as he drives away in the mud-caked blue Ford truck. Hear the tires squeal on the asphalt. Finish adding the last of the dirt. Press firmly. Hope the worms are going to be OK down there. Figure that they’re worms, they likely will be.
4. ADD QUALITY FERTILIZER THAT CONTAINS MYCORRHIZAE TO SUPPORT HEALTHY ROOT GROWTH.
Go to the shed for the fertilizer. Search everywhere, insisting out loud to no one that it’s here somewhere. Find it under your wife’s geranium pot. Regret throwing the geranium at your wife’s stupid cousin during her birthday party with all her other stupid relatives. Attempt to be forgiving, even though the cousin had it coming and should have kept her fat mouth shut. Try not to see the look on your son’s face as the geranium flew through the air. Be glad it missed his head. Read the directions on the fertilizer bag. Correctly measure, then mix in water. Read that mycorrhizae forms a “mutually beneficial relationship between the plant and root fungus.” Be amazed how nature works. Speculate if your wife is like the fungi or the root. Give up trying to figure it out. Feel lucky to have her.
5. ADD A FEW INCHES OF ORGANIC MULCH AND WATER YOUR TREE DEEPLY.
Place wood clippings on the fresh-turned and fertilized dirt. Watch the water soak into the dirt and clippings. Think about the future and wonder if you will be around to see this tree mature. Hope that you don’t fuck this up.
Lois Ann Goossen is a recent import to Long Beach, California. She has lived in Southwest Michigan, Phoenix, and Northern California, gathering a life time of experiences. A graduate of Sonoma State University with a BA in English/Creative Writing, she is now using her degree for the greater good and not just diddling around. She likes getting lost in the land of poetry, flash, and essays with her inner writer, spending many a happy hour together staring out the window watching birds in the yard.