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Sunday, July 19, 2009

The Giving Tree

If you have children, you are probably familiar with The Giving Tree. Our version is a Stella cherry tree. My neighbor, Farmer Breakfield, allowed me to plant it on his property in the side yard between our houses way back when my first born was not yet a year old. It was just a stick, barely eight feet high. He was a good neighbor and ate many a cherry from that tree before passing on.

My wife and I were having dinner on our front porch the other day watching the starlings and crows that had descended on Stella (the name given to this tree by my daughters) when suddenly, like a cannon shot going off, a hawk attacked. The birds exploded out of the tree and within a second or so there was dead silence. Over Lake Union the flock of forty or fifty starlings was weaving through the air in an evasive maneuver, looking very much like a school of black fish. The crows had disappeared.

The above video of a similar hawk eating one of our bantam chickens was taken last summer. I wrote about it in Grist Magazine's blog.

This spring, for the first time, a family of crows had built a nest in Stella. The chick fledged shortly before the cherries had ripened. I last saw it on our roof begging for food and being fed cherries.

One day I looked out my front window and saw a group of Japanese tourists taking photos of Stella. They had never seen anything like it. This tree is thirty feet tall and covered with thousands upon thousands of cherries, so many that they bow the branches with their weight.

Another day there was a knock at my door. It was our substitute mailman, a recent immigrant from somewhere in South East Asia. He was wondering if he could come back after delivering the mail to pick some cherries. I said sure. He picked a big bag full and when he was done he told me they were for his mom. This warmed my heart.

The children of the neighborhood make frequent visits to pick and eat cherries. One little guy, who is about four or five, usually comes with a buddy and together they also chase and catch the chickens to put back into their pen, a task they take very seriously and enjoy immensely.

The latest addition to our village is little Amira. Her papa brings her by most evenings to eat cherries (after we carefully pit them first). She was just adopted from an Ethiopian orphanage, both parents having died of AIDS. She has been here for a few months and although gaining weight, still shows signs of malnutrition. She's the most beautiful baby I have ever seen in my life.

The cherries are all gone now. Stella always looks tired and worn out after giving birth to her crop. I hope she outlives my children and me. I envision them coming back to visit her through their lives.

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