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My Pawpaw Tree is Tilting

            During one of the summer storms, my fourteen-year-old Pawpaw tree went from gently leaning into the yard, to bowing down, leaves almost touching the grass.

            At first, I thought it was temporary, like the way the hydrangeas get heavy with moisture and look like they’re exhausted and wilting, and the next day, as they dry off, they lift back up. But even while all of the other flowers and trees in the yard started to rise back up to standing, the Pawpaw stayed tilted.

            Part of the problem is that the Pawpaw tree was planted in the retaining wall, rather than straight in the ground, and the retaining wall is not in the greatest of health. There are all kinds of bushes and trees around the Pawpaw competing for space, and the wooden slats that keep each level of the wall in place are rotting.

            But still. The Pawpaw tree has been there for nine of its fourteen years, long enough to have deep roots, so I didn’t expect it to fall down and never get up again.

            Mom said it could be about the quality of the soil in the retaining wall; it’s gotten spongy. She has plans to buy special soil to add into the wall around the tree, to help support it, but if it’s the soil, then why is it only the Pawpaw that’s struggling to stay upright?

            I get a teensy bit paranoid about my tree, obviously.


            We put some rocks around the trunk and leaned a garden fork against it with the teeth dug into the ground as a counterweight, but that was only a short term solution.

            Then Mom went to the home improvement store and bought a heavy rope and a bungee cord. My job was to climb up into the retaining wall (with a big stick for balance and to push tangled vines and branches out of my way) and wrap the rope around two solid trees a few levels up into the wall. Then the bungee cord went around the trunk of the Pawpaw, as taut as possible, to give the tree some extra support, so at least it won’t tilt further in the next storm.

            I don’t know how Mr. Pawpaw feels about wearing a back brace, as well as the bowtie that marks him out as off limits to the gardeners, but I hope he agrees that survival is more important than vanity.

            So now I wait and see. There’s still one Pawpaw fruit growing on one of the higher branches (out of reach) and the leaves look healthy, so I’m hopeful.

            I’m not thrilled with all of the drama that comes of loving a tree; but it certainly gives me something to write about.


If you haven’t had a chance yet, please check out my Young Adult novel, Yeshiva Girl, on Amazon. And if you feel called to write a review of the book, on Amazon, or anywhere else, I’d be honored.

            Yeshiva Girl is about a Jewish teenager on Long Island, named Isabel, though her father calls her Jezebel. Her father has been accused of inappropriate sexual behavior with one of his students, which he denies, but Izzy implicitly believes it’s true. As a result of his problems, her father sends her to a co-ed Orthodox yeshiva for tenth grade, out of the blue, and Izzy and her mother can’t figure out how to prevent it. At Yeshiva, though, Izzy finds that religious people are much more complicated than she had expected. Some, like her father, may use religion as a place to hide, but others search for and find comfort, and community, and even enlightenment. The question is, what will Izzy find?

Gardening Puppy

Cricket has her paws on the red handled trowel

Cricket has her paws on the red handled trowel


            Cricket loves to dig. She has adopted a small red handled trowel as her own and whenever her grandma is using it, Cricket goes over to bark at it and try to steal it. She hasn’t figured out how to make it dig, but then maybe that’s not her intention. She’s angry at it for taking her job.

"You can't have it, Grandma!"

“You can’t have it, Grandma!”

            When she’s out with Grandma, doing the gardening, her job is to pull out roots and weeds. She’ll dig first with her paws and then grab with her teeth and pull. Then she runs back into the house, with four black feet and a black chin with a little bit of her original white hair showing through, and then she spreads the dirt around, leaving her water bowl muddy and her face smiley.

            She was getting impatient with the long winter this year and decided to dig random holes in the lawn. I had to watch her carefully to catch the crazy digging before she was a foot down into the earth. And then we had to replace the divots and stomp them down, like we were at a polo match.

            Ideally, Cricket would have her own garden, or a sandbox, to play in. But the endless baths that would result wouldn’t make mommy or puppy very happy. And she doesn’t just want to dig aimlessly, she wants to accomplish something.

Cricket's after-bath twist

Cricket’s after-bath twist

            Cricket and Grandma have different ideas on gardening. Their aesthetics are in opposition. Cricket likes holes. She likes digging through the top layer of grass to explore the rich, meaty underbelly of dirt. She likes to remove things from the ground, rather than add them. We have to keep her at a distance from anything freshly planted, because she will unplant it with relish.

            When we moved recently, we lost a full lawn of gardening space where Mom had planted berry bushes, and pawpaw trees, a full vegetable box, and sunflowers, and lilies, and hydrangeas, and strawberries, and on and on.

            In our new place there isn’t as much space and it has to be shared, which means, most of all, that gardening puppy does not get to participate. I’d love to be able to put her on the long lead out in the yard, but I’m afraid that would bother my new neighbors and I’m not ready to alienate anyone, yet.

For Mother’s day we went to the gardening store and bought four different kinds of tomato plants, and a purple pepper plant, to plant along with the things we brought from our last home. But Cricket keeps trying to climb into the new vegetable plot to “help.”

Butterfly likes to sniff the flowers, but she’s delicate about it. The only time she likes to dig is when she’s standing next to her food bowls, scratching at the wood floor as if she thinks more food is hidden underneath.

Butterfly, considering the mysteries of the universe

Butterfly, considering the mysteries of the universe

Hopefully, Cricket will be able to find an outlet for her gardening passions, one that doesn’t include unplanting the tomatoes, or rolling in the patches of poison oak the way the local cats like to do. But I think, for now, she’s happy that her Grandma is gardening again, getting excited about new vegetables and flowers, as long as Cricket gets to sniff each and every one and give her bark of approval.