Date: 6/17/20 6:25 am
From: Ted Levin <tedlevin1966...>
Subject: [VTBIRD] June 17, 2020: Coyote Hollow, Thetford Center
5:05 a.m. 47 degrees, wind NW 0 mph. Sky: empty of clouds; a rose wash in
the south. A landscape photographer would cut out the sky; there's nothing
there, just pale, barren blue. A magazine photographer might not, however .
. . an editor could layout a title or a lead graph in the vacant sky;
that's about it. A blue void . . . except for a goose, alone and silent,
that passes southeast. Wetlands veiled in anorexic mist. I can almost see
individual droplets, which collectively blunt the crowns of spruce and fir,
which hem the far shore. Veeries spin music out of the mist. Outflow pipe
from the pond no longer drips. A pair of robins, like spotted sandpipers,
hunt the emergent rocks in the lower of the two permanent streams; pick
dormant insects that wait for rain. House wren back to speed; rapid-fire
song at machinegun pace.

In the front yard, a pair of hairy woodpeckers idle on the trunk of my
black walnut . . . a *most* personal tree. Thirty-three years ago, when
Linny was pregnant with Casey, she decided that we should collect walnuts
from a large sweeping tree that grew on a nearby dairy farm. We were given
permission to gather nuts, which littered the yard like pebbled linoleum.
We collected a bushel, the most magnificent walnuts I'd ever seen, each one
almost as big as a baseball, with fragrant, yellow-green husks, like so
many odd-shaped apples. Of the approximate one hundred nuts we gathered,
seven germinated. After Casey was born, Linny called the sprouts Casey's
trees. She planted them in the yard and fussed over them. Four survived the
first year. A deer ate one the second year; another died of unknown causes.
When we moved to Thetford, seven years later, the trees came with us;
two-feet tall—quintessential slow-growing hardwoods—roots longer and
stouter than trunks. During the three years that we lived on Houghton Hill,
one of the saplings died. By the time we moved to Coyote Hollow, we had two
boys and one tree. The walnut was now eight-feet tall. We hired landscapers
to transplant it.

When Linny died in 2000, the walnut was coming into its own.

Now Casey lives in Colorado and the tree, his tree, that his mother so
lovingly tended, is over forty-feet tall, more a than a foot thick at
breast height, and lords it over the compost pile and garden. Sapsucker
holes like necklaces skirt the trunk. A rose-breasted grosbeak, bold among
feathery leaves, its breast on fire, sings sweetly . . . a birthday tune.
It's Casey's birthday today; he and his tree, a pair of
thirty-three-year-olds. Even red-eyed vireos sound sweeter today.

The world's on fire, and a flicker lands in the walnut. Yellow and white
and tan, spotted and barred, black bib and mustache, red-nape and
gray-crown . . . a birthday bird. I only wish Casey was here to see it.
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