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He Did It

After the students had walked out onto the field… After the band stopped playing Pomp and Circumstance… After the sun went down behind the bleachers… After the students had walked across the stage… After the tossing of mortar boards… After the fireworks… After all that, I saw Jon amid the blue. 

“I’ll be right back,” I said to Mr. Edgar.

Jon saw me coming.

“Mr. Hasan!” he shouted. 

“Jon!” I said, returning his broader than usual smile. 

He was standing with Isabel. She and he and a group of rascals were in my fifth period class a year ago. She did well. He did not. And he made a point to remind me that I had failed him whenever the two of them passed my classroom this year, although he would do it with a smile on his face as we bumped fists and they continued walking down the hall. 

“Mr. Hasan,” he said. “I did it!”

“You did it,” I said and held my fist up for a bump.

“I need to give you a hug,” he said. 

So we hugged each other. And Isabel and I hugged, too.

“You did it!” I said to him again, pointing a finger right at him. “You did it.”

Isabel smiled.

On the Merits of Having a Hole in the Bucket

There used to be Pyracanthas against that wall. Winding branches. Dark green oval leaves. Orange berries. And pokey thorns that burned like fire. But they didn’t make it. Years ago, one withered and died. Soon after the other.

When we planted Coral Honeysuckle on a trellis against the wall, the curse remained. The vines struggled and put out only a blossom or two in a season. But the curse turned out not to be a curse after all but rather a simple matter of not enough water. The wall, you see, is under an overhanging eave.

It seems that water is somehow a vital ingredient in the life cycle of plants. Who knew!?

…which brings me to the bucket.

We have a little metal bucket that we use to water plants in the yard. It’s a fine bucket. Been around for a long time. But there’s a hole in the bottom, and when you fill it up, the water trickles out. As such, the bucket isn’t good for much — except the Coral Honeysuckle. Fill the bucket up. Set the bucket down. The water runs slowly out. Do it once; do it twice. Do it today; do it tomorrow. The water gently soaks the base of the honeysuckle. The honeysuckle is happier.

Tonight as I stepped over the Salvia to set down the holey bucket, a Dwarf Salamander slithered away from the base of the trellis and into the leaves under the Dwarf Yaupon Holly.

It seems that water is somehow a vital ingredient in the life cycle of amphibians. Who knew!? 

Time to Mow?

The front yard is… well… Is it time to mow? How to do?

Morning Birdsong

It was a Cardinal that woke me up. Singing in the canopy in the distance. No wait, that’s not it. You can’t hear the outside with the patio door is closed. So why on earth was I out of bed so early?

Highly nonstandard.

The bedroom was dark when I threw off the sheet. I fumbled for glasses and slipped into shorts and pulled a maple leaf teeshirt over the dishevel. Thusly configured, I opened the patio door to let in the early morning air. 

It was at this point that birdsong surrounded me. There was a Cardinal singing in the distance. And there was a noisy Wren somewhere nearby. And before long there were Chickadees chattering in the dawning light.  

“Morning, baby,” Trudy said as she wandered into the kitchen.

Despite my best efforts, I had not been sufficiently quiet in the making of the coffee.

You Would Have

You would have enjoyed this morning. It wouldn’t have made any difference, front yard or back. You would have enjoyed it. Enjoyed the birdsong. Enjoyed the greenery. Enjoyed the wildflowers. Enjoyed the breeze. 

You would have sung back to the Wrens in the Cedar Elms. You would have thanked the overcast sky holding the heat of summer at bay. And although our definition of the 70+-degree morning and the oncoming 80+-degree temperatures would have hardly qualified for you as a cool spring day, you would have been outside from morning until the sun went down.

It’s hard to know where you might have chosen to sit. In front, you might have basked in the glory of the wildflowers making our once-conventional suburban lawn a miniature wilderness. In the back, you might have listened to the Wren and the Cardinal and the Titmouse in the distance. You might have commented on the various varieties of Salvia blossoming in purple. And you might have spoken to the squirrel drinking from the birdbath on the stump where the Ash tree used to grow.

Over the years that you came down from the north, our springtimes didn’t cooperate much. One year it was too hot, another too cold. One year it was too dry, another too wet. Although there was that spring in 1991 when you came with Nani and Bunka and we all wandered in the Bluebonnets and Indian Paintbrush. That was a good spring. This one is too.

You would have loved it.

Empty Benches

picture of empty benches in the woods

The benches under the trees in the woods on the hill by the lake are empty.
Bye mom.

Footsteps in the Dark

It was night. It was late. The forest was dark. 

The ground was marvelously soft from the rains the week before. Yet even though the man knew the path well, whenever he took his eyes (and his headlamp) off the ground at his feet, he found himself wandering into the softer softness of leaves and pine needles to either side, sinking sometimes well above his ankles. Often when he did this, his bare feet would step on a concealed bough fallen long ago and buried under the litter but still pokey enough to make him hobble. In this way he made his way to the outhouse. 

When he reached his destination, he went around the corner and stepped inside. The small space exploded in the brightness of his headlamp. Then he heard footsteps in the dark outside.

He turned quickly. His headlamp shined out the open door, lighting the forest floor and tree trunks standing in the dark and other trunks fallen rotting on the ground. Three feet away from him was a porcupine. It stood next to a log and had just turned its back. Its black and white spines stood erect. 

The man stomped his feet. He slapped his hand on the outhouse wall. The porcupine held its ground and shifted defensively. The man began to reach toward a stick to poke the porcupine so to scare it away. But at the last moment, he decided otherwise. There is no visit to an outhouse worth that risk. 

Instead, he tucked his head, stepped back out onto the soft, leaf-strewn path and walked back whence he had come. He would take his business elsewhere.

End of Another Day

1. Gold

I was on the phone with cousins when I stopped mid-sentence.

Something is dreadfully wrong with the forest over there, I thought to myself. How is it possible that the leaves have turned yellow in just the last few days?

My heart was breaking.

There are Pines and Maples and Oaks and Black Walnuts down there. It’s June, for heaven’s sake. The leaves should be green. But the leaves on a large swath of those trees had turned yellow. And there was another bunch just a bit beyond.

I turned around, and there was another bunch behind me in the other direction. And now, it was all around me. Everywhere I looked, the green was changing to a shimmering gold.

“Oh my god you guys,” I said on the phone. “The sun has just come out from behind the clouds before sunset and is lighting the tops of the trees!” 

2. Rose

Just as I finished telling them this, I turned to look into the heart of the forest. The golden sunbeams didn’t reach back there, but in the few moments that had passed, the sunshine had changed from gold to pink. There were red sunbeams cutting deep into the woods painting the trunks with vivid stripes of fuchsia and magenta and rose.

“Oh my god you guys,” I gasped into the phone. “The sun has turned neon pink and it’s lighting the trunks of the trees way back in the woods!”

They were patient with me, my cousins on the phone. Because they know this place. And they know the wonder of the gold and the green, of the red and the rose. 

3. Echoes

Later when I sat to write all this down, later after that magnificent sunset had faded to gray, a Loon called from across the lake — a loud, deep call, resonating in the canopy of the trees across the water, echoing around the lake. I looked up.

The sunset that had faded was now rekindled and a stripe of neon pink was burning just above the distant treetops in the west.

Then the Loon called again. And again. And again. It called a total of eleven times. Each time its haunting, lonely echo sent goose pimples down my spine.

I have never had a day’s end quite like this.


It gets a bit wonky around Baldwin Lake. The Flat River Trail map shows that the trail doesn’t officially go around the lake but rather ends at a narrow road by the water’s edge. But that road follows the shore, wraps around the northern arm, cuts across a tiny strip to Manoka Lake, and from there rejoins the official trail.

Thing is, I didn’t know about all this wrapping and following and cutting across. Undoubtedly the fair and industrious Trudy would have explained it. She had researched the Greenville trails and even ridden this one with Jenny last week. But I had done no research other than to learn that if you followed that road you’d eventually find yourself back on the trail. So I followed it.

There came a point where the bike lane diverged, and both paths looked equally travelled. So I took the left one, because it climbed a hill into a White Pine woods. I was optimistic that I really couldn’t choose incorrectly. Greenville, Michigan is not a big place, after all. Any of us dropped anywhere in the town could find our way back to the trailhead.

The climbing, winding path passed cutouts where benches might eventually go and turned in sharp switchbacks and passed a playground until finally at the top it emptied out onto a parking lot. Not far away, a guy was trying to start a weed eater. This was The Greenville Optimist Camp. My optimism thereby rewarded, I turned onto a street that Trudy and I had driven on just the other day, and from there, the true trail what just several heartbeats away.

White Pine

White Pine trunk with white sap dripping down

Why yes. That would be a White Pine.