The trees have finally gotten dressed. They almost overslept. Or maybe they were right on time, but I was late in noticing. The garden goes in the ground when the oak’s leaf is the size of a squirrel’s paw, they say, but never before the tenth of May. We keep time and count the moons. We plant in signs, and we notice and watchfully wait for change, and sometimes it still sneaks right up on us.

The same summer storm can be a blessing or a curse. Dry wells and parched corn bring praying for that blessed baptism through a cloud of dust. Months of rain and the tease of thinking there would be clear skies to get up that hay, might bring a cussin on those same clouds.

The oak’s leaf is much bigger than a squirrel’s paw now, and I feel almost late getting any seeds in the dirt. The trees almost overslept but then jumped right up and made it out right on time, I reckon. The garden was just plowed this weekend, and we watched as it rained about two inches on top of the freshly tilled earth, making it unadvisable to venture into the deep wetness. Fallow ground, itching for seed, weeping with skyfall.

Change can creep up and not be noticed until it’s already worn a new place. One day, all of a sudden, the leaves are on the trees.

The garden is different this year. It has always been planted in the same spot, next to the cornfield, but this year, we put it on the other side of the house. Regarding the muddy, as yet uncharted map of meals, my eyes were drawn to the oak that shades it.

This oak. I reckon it’s about 100 years old. Daddy was born in ’29, and he said it was a little tree when he was a little boy. I can’t allow as it’s changed much in my lifetime, but as I count my age, it must have. Slow, though, like a creep, see?

When the three sons were small, a tree house was built. Old pallets and a collapsing feed trough were torn apart to supply the wood that proudly wrapped itself around the giant trunk of the old oak tree. Thirteen feet from the ground and up a ladder that led to a staircase, the treehouse embraced the aging oak like a father. Games were played, and snacks were eaten there beneath the loving canopy of leaves, draping over the fleeting moments there. When the boys’ friends came over, it was the first thing they couldn’t wait to show off. Come see my treehouse! The oak and her branches, with their shawl of green, watched the boys and protected them from the sun. Like a blanket over a baby, the treehouse was soon outgrown.

When the boys were small, I often climbed the treehouse to be with them, hiding beside them in the emerald, intimate shroud. Blankets were laid and books were read, and I reveled even then in the peace of the day. Last summer I climbed the treehouse again, and noticed the floor was rotting. The trapdoor that went over the steps was warped. It wouldn’t be much longer.

This spring, all at once like a slap, the front of the treehouse collapsed. There was no warning or announcement prior, that we might have made ready, for whom on earth would it have come from? Time goes on and changes happen before you notice them… and then you do.

The boy who drove toy tractors in that treehouse is graduating high school next week. It is impossible not to consider the poetic irony that at the end of his high school career, the treehouse of his childhood has finally gasped its last and begun its collapse. Change drips everywhere.

The falling treehouse, still hangs onto its spot and overlooks a new garden now. A new spot and chance for life. What perfect, accidental timing.

Sitting on the porch Sunday, in between rain showers, a red bird flitted down onto the grass beside the fresh dirt of the garden. Plowed and disturbed from its comfort state, but thus allowing seed the hope of bearing fruit, the new dirt enticed the red bird. I watched for a long time as he peeped and dotted and peered and jumped all around the turned soil. He knows something’s about to happen, I thought.

I thought of the old superstition about seeing a red bird, that it’s a visit from the dead. I smiled out loud and almost said, “Hi, Mommy.”

It’s time to get up and get dressed.

A teacher and mother, Meagan Morehead Bradshaw lives on a farm in Bland County; contact her at meaganmorehead123@gmail.com.

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