Jeff O'Handley, Author

Jeff O'Handley

The Doubting Writer Finds His Voice

Disaster strikes

A couple of days ago, my wife and I were coming home from…somewhere, I don’t remember where, exactly. As we came down the road in front of my house I looked up my graceful sweep of overgrown lawn and sat up a little straighter, alarmed by something out of place amidst the ragged grass and weeds: the plastic mesh cage surrounding the chestnut tree had been knocked on its side.

I haven’t provided an update on the Famous Chestnut Tree since the end of May, but it was doing quite well. It was definitely in the closest thing to the “leap” phase of the “sleep, creep, and leap” cycle that my botanist board member who used to work for a nursery told me about (i.e., when transplanting trees and shrubs, expect it to take about three years before it really starts growing). While the Famous Chestnut Tree wasn’t a threat to reach 20 feet tall this year, what was taking over as the new trunk had put on substantial growth this year, and spawned an additional side branch.

Happier times

That picture was taken May 28. Just to the left of my pinkie is a bend in the trunk–everything above that bend was this year’s growth. Leap, indeed.

As I ran out to check on the Famous Chestnut Tree, I hoped and hoped that the cage had just been knocked over by wind, though I did not really believe this. While we had some massive periods of rain last week, they were calm affairs: little thunder, little lightning–and pretty much no wind.

It was not the wind. This is what I found when I got to the tree (and I apologize, I can’t seem to make my camera focus on the tree, so it’s a little blurry; but you’ll get the picture):

Oh, the humanitree!

Who dunnit? The culprits are likely one of three: rabbit, deer, or woodchuck. My money is on deer. I’m guessing the opening at the top of my plastic mesh “sleeve” was far too wide and some deer stuck its head right in, knocking the whole thing down. Looks like I need to up my security game a little.

Annoying, but not an end to the Famous Chestnut Tree, not yet. Not clear on the photo, but there are a couple of leaves left (small, yes, but still there), and there are already buds in place. Trees are resilient; I’m confident this one will just get stronger.

In other news…

I’ve let work on the WiP slide a little bit this last week, though not entirely. I’ve been participating in The University of Iowa’s Moving the Margins: Fiction and Inclusion MOOC. It’s a bit of a struggle to keep up, but I’m hanging in there, and I think it’s going well. I have been using parts of the WiP in class, and I’m hoping it will help. I’ve read some fantastic short stories as course reading and I’ve received some excellent critiques on my assignments (and, hopefully, given some). The discussion areas are still a little clunky, but overall, it’s been a positive experience so far.

That’s all for me; how’s everything with all of you?

5 Responses

  1. So sorry about your tree! I'm assuming you can't just grow it in a pot indoors until it's big enough to transplant outside. That's what we did with the two maple trees that sprouted on our old property 20+ years ago. One is still in the yard and the other had to be cut down because Hubby planted it too close to the house. It got HUGE!!!

  2. Hi Jeff, I'm enjoying Moving the Margins online course too. It's such a treat. But yes, it's intense. And you did give me good feedback.

  3. Stacy: in hindsight, that's what I should have done (raised it in a pot), though we have systematically killed off just about every green thing that's ever been brought into this house (I have an aloe that's limping along). I'm afraid to dig it up, though, for fear of damaging the roots. I'll keep it protected as best I can and see what happens from here.

  4. Hi, Yulia, thanks for stopping to read and comment! I'm glad my feedback has helped, and thanks for yours, too!

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