Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Hatchback Trees -- My New Book Project

I'm writing a new gardening book by Feb 1st. 40 short snapshot-esque chapters on the first years of my garden. Target length is 100 pages (a nice pocket book I hope). Below is one section of 15 I've written so far, and I'll likely post more over the coming weeks. I'd love your base, first, gut reaction on these pieces as they come along.

The book is tentatively titled Sleep, Creep, Leap: The First Three Years of a Newbie's Garden, and will be a mix of styles--humorous, lyrical, descriptive, narrative--most chapters only a few pages long. Some chapters will be posts taken directly from my blog, others, like the one below, are fresh off the press and quite raw.

Hatchback Trees

No one stares. No one even looks over at the stoplight. I suppose that’s fine, I don’t want to make a scene. I’m just trying to get from point A to point B without losing too many leaves or side-swiping another car when I blindly change lanes.

The tallest tree I’ve had in my hatchback was an eight foot maple. The widest was about four feet, a weeping white birch 50% off at a big box store (it was too sophisticated for their usual clientele, I’m convinced, and thus its sale price).

Once a young man helping me asked if the tree would fit in my car. I laughed, scoffed, rolled my eyes and moaned a “duh.” But there is a trick to it, and sometimes it does help to have someone up front threading branches through the seats, past headrests, on to the dash, and out the window. I don’t like coming home to find even one small twig has been torn off.

The pot is the biggest problem, like trying to lift a bag of shifting sand to your chest. Over the years I figure I’ve lost a good yard of planting medium, soil, mulch, and compost to my trunk.

I drive home at or below speed limit, taking the side roads, trying to reduce wind drag as the maple, birch, or crabapple needles its way out the passenger window. Often I’m poked and prodded along the way, twigs piercing my arm, my cheek, leaves tickling my ear, and once, a preying mantis taking the tree-bridge over into my hair and almost causing an accident. But I gave her a good home.

Maybe there's no art to hatchback tree hauling that makes me special. But I see kids in the backseat of a Ford pull up to a truck and whoop and holler at the black lab in the cargo bed, excitedly waving and barking, the dog wagging its tail like a windshield wiper on overdrive. I wish someone would pull up next to me, look over, smile, maybe even wink. Yes, I’d see them say in their eyes, yes, you are a man after my own heart.


Diana Studer said...

Yes, go Benjamin! Have fun writing these, and when you are not looking your magnum opus will fly.
I me myself, would take newbie out of that title.

That is how we used to come back from the annual indigenous plant sale at Kirstenbosch. But being annual, we would so, see people coming the other way already laden. Or gazing at us as we headed home, and wondering will I still find a ....?

Benjamin Vogt said...

I'm with you on the title. If I keep it. Maybe I'll just call it $^&&$^$#((@*!*#@!

Heather Holm said...

Benjamin, this project sounds great!

I have had the same experience with our station wagon lining up alongside trucks and SUV's at our City tree sale pickup. I feel like the mini at a monster truck rally. The trees always fit even if people think I'm crazy. I feel vindicated knowing that my trees are better off in a closed vehicle than in the back of a truck.


Les said...

As a professional hose-monkey, I have put my fair share of trees in cars and customers are constantly amazed at what their cars will hold. Once the trees are loaded they just have to figure some way to get their kids home too.

A very good friend of mine was carrying a load of rhododenrons in her SUV when she heard a rustling in the back among the foliage. She looked in her rear view mirror to see a very large praying manits emerging from one of the shrubs. The very next second it was on here face clawing at her. In her attempt to swat it away she rolled her vehicle down a ravine, totalling the car and severly injuring her person. The cops thought here story dubious until they went to retrieve her purse and phone, and there was the insect on the front passenger seat.

Benjamin Vogt said...

Heather--I envy people with trucks on those days, but not on teh other days when I see my gas mileage. But then I envy them again when it snows....
Les--That is the most disturbing, funny, macabre, cool story I've ever heard. One time I had to pull over on the highway because a spider was slowly threading itself down from my car's ceiling onto my hands and the wheel--it just freaked me out. I didn't crash, though, so the story isn't too interesting.

compost in my shoe said...

Love the title. Will look forward to the read!

Susan Tomlinson said...

I like the idea of the book, and I like the first look at it. I agree with Elephant's Eye, though: I'm not keen on the word "newbie." Seems a bit overused.

Reading about stuffing trees into small cars will strike a lot of familiar chords with gardeners, and probably bring back more than a few memories.

Looking forward to some more installments.

Benjamin Vogt said...

Compost--Thank you!
Susan--Taht's good, bringing back memoires. The job of the writer isn't so much about creating memorable descriptive scenes, but allowing a reader's personal scenes to come back to the surface, thus making a deeper connection to the writing. Right?

Wendy said...

Sounds really exciting. I love the title and look forward to more!

Benjamin Vogt said...

Wendy--More is coming!! :)

Anonymous said...

Am I the only one who talks to my newly purchased plants in the car? "Hey, it's okay. We'll be home soon."

Wayne, PA

Benjamin Vogt said...

Heather--OMG, no! Your'e not the only one. Keep it quiet though, my wife already thinks I'm crazy.