A hydrangea that I thought had died pushes up in my garden. A vine I thought wasn't going to make it began thriving in the last two weeks. The age-old lilac tree that we were going to cut down because it never bloomed, flourished this year. I took a tree class today with my neighbors and we all officially adopted the trees on our street, pledging to care for them. I do not consider myself a gardener, but I would like to be a real one someday. I wrote a book called Stand Tall where the seasons in a boy's life change as a great white oak in the park near his house changes color, drops its leaves, and fills up lush again in spring. I was reminded today of the root system of trees and have great guilt that I've not been watering the tree in front of my house. It seemed so big, you know, and it didn't seem like it needed any help from me, but it does — twenty gallons of water per week, according to the man who spoke with us. How I have neglected this tree, but I won't anymore.
It makes me think of what else I've ignored that's right in front of me. I've had one of those years when I have focused in tight to a few things and I've not been able really to step back and take in the big picture. I've had one of those years that sped by and I found myself trying to grab at the things racing past. I know I missed some of those things — they were passing by so quickly.
The black squirrel Zorro runs atop my fence. Zorro doesn't like me; he thinks I killed his brother — I didn't. I got home last fall and a black squirrel was lying dead in my garden, but Zorro walks atop my fence glaring at me. "I'm innocent," I tell this squirrel, but he doesn't buy it. My dog Max comes out and the squirrel runs off. Max trots to his place in the garden, in charge. There is something uniquely joyful about my garden this May. I'm beginning to understand the soil, beginning to understand what plants won't die, beginning to understand my style. I will turn a wretched age in July, but I suppose that's really okay. I feel new dreams coming, old dreams being realized, branches being cut off and pruned, and new life taking hold.
FOR THOSE IN THE CHICAGO AREA, I was recently awarded the Chicago Tribune's Young Adult Literary Prize. I will be at the Printers Row Book Festival on Saturday, June 4th. Please come by and say hi.