It was in the 50s and breezy, rain splattering down like spitting from the sky. The kids and I drove through a web of highways and burnt houses, concrete columns and vast factories, and ended up in a neighborhood of houses that once stood majestic. Detroit.
We were the oldest and the youngest in a crowd of eager twentysomethings, there to green the city, to plant trees. And despite the rain, we wore our gardening gloves and rubber boots and grasped the shovels and the rakes and the big plastic buckets as if our lives depended on it.
Of course, my daughter whined and cried from the cold. It wasn’t really that cold, but inertia can render one unpleasant. While we listened and watched, heard stories of the groups that brought us there and learned how to properply plant a tree wrapped in a burlap bag, she hovered at my leg, unhappy.
We traipsed then down the street to a white X on the grass and a tree lain on its side. We dug in with the point of the spade and hefted clumps of sod out of the planted earth.
A man came with an ax and hacked away the dead roots within. The kids handled fat pulsing worms with their fingers, in awe. And once the hole was deep enough, they eagerly stomped the dirt flat, preparing it to receive the tree.
We were given a ginkgo and the task of bringing it to life tall and steady in the wet earth. By then, our cold had vanished and our blood pulsed. There had been tears, of course, for one sibling pushing the other out of the way, and impulsive threats from me, the mother, in a lame attempt to keep harmony.
But all in all, we were dedicated to expanding life.
After, we ate so much food at Zeff’s in Eastern Market, a place where my family has roots from a century ago.
And much later, around the dinner table, when I asked my usual question, “Tell me something great about your day!”, it was my daughter, the tear-streaked miserable one this morning, who said, “Planting the tree.”
What is like poison in the beginning, becomes nectar in the end. Always.