Circle of Trees


Trish and I recently planted a circle of thirteen fairly large evergreen trees. They are a variety of Alaskan Cedars called “Jubilee.” The trees are tall and limber, and they shimmy and dance when the wind blows. There is no getting around the fact that digging holes is plain hard work, but the saving grace is that our soil here is high quality loam with very few rocks, and right now, in the spring time, it is loose enough that you can virtually pull it out by the shovel-full. In the summer, once the moisture has baked out of it, digging will become considerably more difficult.

The two black cats, Stiv and Strange, seem to enjoy the circle the most. They like to take turns hiding behind one of the trees, and then the hiding cat will jump out to startle the other and initiate a chase that usually ends with the pursued up a nearby oak tree. The Cedars are too thick with branches and foliage to climb.

The circle is a good place to sit and think, or in Trish’s case, to dream. This whole property broadens my mind when I let it—when I don’t allow the grass and weeds, and the endless and growing list of things that “need to be done,” to choke out my long-term thinking, and turn it short and circular.

Signs Shifting

This morning I put on a pair of old khaki Dickeys that I haven’t worn in a while and found a tight wad of dollar bills balled up in the rear right pocket. Three dollars through the wash, crisp and clean. The forecast called for a chance of rain today, but the skies are blue and cloudless, though a moderate breeze could indicate change in the future.

Anyway, for the sake of positive thinking I’m going to take these small signs as a portent of a shift in the energy patterns—maybe this awful spring is breaking down into something more manageable. If it’s not a truce, maybe at least Mother Nature and the hands of fate could agree to a temporary cease fire.

I used to put a lot more stock in signs. I used to follow ravens and listen to the whisper of the winds through the tree tops. I still listen to the sounds, but not what they’re saying. The older I get, the more cycles I live through, the more it seems arbitrary. Good, evil, benevolence, chaos, order, sanity, madness—temporary conditions. Maybe all that’s necessary is to keep plugging along, to keep whacking at that stone, even as the ax’s head is long dull and the shaft is starting to shiver.

Nowadays I admit to not knowing much, if anything. It’s a giant puzzle and I can’t piece the damn thing together. On my best days I stop trying.

We’ll keep doing our thing—planting fruits and vegetables to nourish our bodies in the short term, and planting trees to nourish our souls, and to leave something behind for those who come along after us.

Bob Howard has been living, working, and writing in Northern Califonria since he moved to Chico in early 2000. In January 2011, he and his wife Trish relocated to Los Molinos, 30 minutes north of Chico, where they are the proud proprietors of the Double Happiness Farm. There they grow organic food, ornamental plants and trees, and generally work to enjoy the beauty of this great region.