my family came to portland for this holiday, which coincided with my birthday this year, one out of seven or eight, i can’t remember. i had a nice little respite from the sixteen hour days i’ve been putting in and talked with my family and let the cat sleep on my bed. i am putting in a garden at the house i’ve been renovating. or in the beginning design stages of the yard, etc. my father is an expert green thumb and gave me some very interesting advice about the planting of trees. for years growing up i watched him plant trees: we have a small apple orchard there at the family house, lots of japanese maples, plumbs, pears, a lovely birch and an elm tree that was nearly killed several years ago by a drunk driver crashing into her on the corner of the property (the drunk was fine). so part of this observation process was my dad’s preparation of the hole into which the rootball would go. he always saturated the large hole with nutrients beyond measure: fishbone fertilizer, all kinds of organic compounds, and i won’t demonstrate my ignorance as to what else. (sometimes a placenta)… he told me over the holiday that he had had an arborist out to give him some council on new plants (trees) he would like to put in and the arborist took a look around and asked what my father had been doing to prep the holes. my father explained: see above. the arborist explained to him that this is actually a pretty grave mistake when planting a young tree of a couple or several years. the reason being that the youthful roots will chase the savory soil without ceasing: they love the nutrient rich soil and will follow it around like fish in a small bowl, avoiding the larger, scarier, less nutrient rich world around the tank of fertile goodness. so the tree will grow less and will be like a child with silver spoon imbedded in his personality until he learns better, which will probably be never. so the roots entwine around themselves until they cannot any longer and you have a beautiful little tree, emphasis on little, lacking its gritty, hardier adult nature… forever. so, when planting a tree like this, my father tells me, it is more important to make the hole just barely large enough and leaving the tap roots exposed above ground level just a bit so the tree must work for its sustenance, which it will. it breaks through the tough soil and reaches earthwards until it begins to sustain and draw all the nutrients it needs from the area, and working harder and growing bigger in the process. tough love. i find that my father may have planted me in this overly enriched soil and that i have been swirling a little. it is my aim in this coming succession of nows to reach into the harder, larger and less fertile world to strech my subterranean tendrils and draw from this place a grandeur of which my youth and upbrining may have never dreamt.