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Creek Running North

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November 14, 2005


The streets are littered with trampled fruit. They are Bradford pears, too small and insipid to bother eating. Even the ants leave them alone.

The persimmon's leaves have turned their orange and fall to earth two at a time. Asian pear leaves are aspen yellow now, and the cherry's oxblood.

Each night the moon rises fifty minutes later, in a clicking of barn owl and far off train.

Smoke curls from the neighbor's chimney. His truck is loaded to break the leaf springs, a cord and a half of oak. We close the windows against the smoke. It seeps in through the attic.

I eye the apple tree, planning next month's pruning cuts.

Three weeks ago a cry caught Zeke and me on our walk. It was the local red shouldered hawk chased by a gull. But not a gull: one of the white-tailed kites that roost in the pines a block away. They skirmished behind a neighbor's house, and I heard the hawk's pathetic calls dwindling in the distance. I smiled and pulled Zeke two steps up the hill. He resisted. I knelt and stroked his head. I heard labored breathing above. It was the hawk. Twenty feet above us, it looked desperate to get to the trees. The kite swooped in from behind it, harassed it, nearly hit it but pulled up at the last minute. I heard the rush of air through its wings.

Tonight the trees sleep, buds folding and enfolding beneath the bark. When the leaves have fallen I will get my saw. Take the wood off above a bud, and it will push out a new branch. Upper buds secrete a hormone that suppresses growth: it travels down each branch from the tips. Take off the terminal bud and all beneath it on the stem will burst out branches. Cut out any wood that crosses. Branches that aim straight up never bear. Only limbs that struggle hard against the earth are fruitful. The ground is littered with the sweet husks of Asian pears, rotting where the worms have gotten them.

Posted by Chris Clarke at November 14, 2005 11:27 PM TrackBack URL for this entry:

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Aaaah, lovely.

Posted by: Stephanie at November 15, 2005 03:25 AM
decorative line of bighorn petroglyphs

Your writing just gets more and more beautiful.

Posted by: nina at November 15, 2005 08:22 AM
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While I naturally gravitate towards the interaction between white-tailed kite and red shouldered hawk, your description of tree pruning reads like poetry. You continue to inspire me, Chris. Thanks.

Posted by: Hungry Hyaena at November 15, 2005 10:06 AM
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I saw a large bird coasting on the wind this morning it was circling above the endless commuters on US 36 looking so lovely that it seemed to belong somewhere else.

I am, of course, rightfully shamed because I could not identify it. The bird and the snow covered Foothills made my morning though.

Posted by: Brenna at November 15, 2005 05:05 PM
decorative line of bighorn petroglyphs

Tonight the trees sleep, buds folding and enfolding beneath the bark.

I agree with the one who said your description of tree pruning is poetry. It is. That line. And I like the description of the hawk and kite - it seems like an aside, like something you thought of, something you were reminded of while you observe your fruit trees, while you think of culling the branches that will never bear ... beautiful descriptions, both.

Posted by: Maureen at November 15, 2005 07:36 PM
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christ every now and then it hits me again, what a beautiful writer you are. both in pen and in thought.

Posted by: susurra at November 18, 2005 12:59 PM
decorative line of bighorn petroglyphs