Home > The Eagle Tree(5)

The Eagle Tree(5)
Ned Hayes

There are other plants in the backyard as well. Ferns and lilies. Wisteria and rosebushes. And a smaller tree that I believe is a young Sweet Cherry. Prunus avium. I cannot determine the exact variety yet.

I did not sleep in this house the first three nights we lived here. I was in the hospital, where they kept putting bandages on my arm and I kept taking them off. But then on the fourth day we lived here, I was able to come back to our new house.

In the car coming from the hospital back to our new house, my mother talked to me. I was trying to listen to both the car engine’s hum and her voice, so it was hard to concentrate. But then she brought up Arizona. This is what she said:

“Look, we had to move to this little house after your father left, and I don’t like it any more than you do. If you really want us to be together, you and I could move to Arizona with him. It would—”

“No,” I said.

“Arizona is a lovely state, March,” my mother said. “And we could live with your father again. You need to understand—”

“It is too hot there,” I said. But really I do not care about the heat. I care about the trees. If trees could grow in that heat, I would not mind moving to Arizona. But if I talk about trees again, I do not think my mother and I will keep talking.

She will just make a decision without me. That idea is very scary to me.

My mother sighed. “It’s not too hot in the part of Arizona I’m talking about moving to. Your father says that he’s open to reconciliation if we move . . .”

It occurred to me that perhaps my mother should know about other options. I am familiar with many parts of the country that have better trees to climb than Arizona. The car’s engine made it hard to think, and I closed my eyes to concentrate.

“Kentucky,” I said. “Tennessee. Those are options I would like to talk about.”

My mother paused. She took a breath, and I thought she was looking at me, but I did not look into her eyes. Finally, she spoke again. “Why, might I ask, Kentucky, of all places?”

“The Appalachian Mountains. They have one of the biggest hardwood forests in the world. Today, they do, at least. This will change in the future.”

“Trees,” she said. She turned the wheel of the car, and I swayed to the side. I opened my eyes again. “More trees than here even, I’m betting,” she said.

“Yes,” I said. “But not for long. The Appalachians could turn into desert or savanna before too long, and I would like to climb those trees before they go away and it all turns into Arizona.”

“The trees will go away?” said my mother. “I’m afraid I don’t follow you, March.”

“If the global temperature rises by only four degrees Celsius over the next fifty years—and it’s probably going to do that—then all of the Appalachian forests will die. Already, the Elms and the Chestnuts are gone, and the Hemlocks and the Flowering Dogwoods. And I didn’t get a chance to climb them yet. Before we know it, the forest will just go away and die off.”

The car turned back the other direction, and I swayed back toward my mother. I know what it is like to be a tree, pushed back and forth in the wind.

“Oh, March,” said my mother. “I’m sure there will be more trees to climb. It’s pretty much impossible for a whole forest to die like that. You’ll have years and years to climb trees. I want to talk about reality here, okay?”

“It is not impossible,” I said, and my voice became very loud, because when we talk about reality, it is important to be factual, and when I speak loudly, I am very factual. I spoke loudly over the hum of the car’s engine.

“When the global temperature rises another degree or two, all of the Red Spruces and the Fraser Firs will be gone. Then the Sugar Maples and the Mountain Ashes will die. These kinds of trees cannot live in that temperature zone. Ninety percent of Fraser Firs are already dead there.”

“Well, I’m sure you can find a Fraser Fir to climb somewhere else, March.”

“No, I can’t. Fraser Firs are unique to the Great Smoky Mountains. I have never climbed one, and they are dying from acid rain and the balsam woolly adelgid.”

“What is that?”

“A moth.”

There was a long pause. The sound of the car’s engine had become a much louder hum.

“I do not want to live in Arizona,” I told her.

“Pat Tillman lived in Arizona,” said my mother. “Did you realize that?”

When she said that, I knew she wanted me to think good things about Arizona because of that fact.

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