A pet tree has brightened my life and my yard


The numbers on our street don’t make obvious sense: our house hides in plain view. When those trucks bearing cartons have a delivery for number 12, the drivers give up in despair and return to their headquarters. Then somebody calls us, and I describe the color and shape of our residence.   

“Red, with a high tapestry brick chimney and a cobblestone alleyway,” I say, loudly, on our phone, which I don’t trust. It’s a new model and I miss the old heavy wall receiver in the Bell days of long ago. 

A large tan cardboard box appeared on the stoop. My wife (who, incidentally, doesn’t respect my incompetence with gadgets) opened it and handed me what it contained: a tiny, thriving pine tree in an oval pot! A pet plant! Who sent it?  Was it for me or for her? It came from Mississippi, via Amazon.   

It was fun not knowing. It made me think of the song with these lyrics: “Somebody loves me, I wonder who?”   

My lady was not satisfied with my speculations. She believed that one of our children sent it, maybe as a get-well present for my bout with the flu. So she called our three grown offspring, but carefully, so as not to suggest that any one of them ought to have done something like that generous gesture.   

She used her social skills, which are considerable, and she was, of course, correct. It was my eldest daughter, Emily, who had marvelously but mysteriously chosen to set this drama in motion.   

Now, while you don’t have to housebreak a pet bonsai tree, you must do other chores to keep it content and sturdy. My bonsai came with white pebbles in a package, a booklet explaining the responsibilities of caring for it, and a calendar of future growth and developments.   

I am obligated to water it daily, and to place it in sunbeams, but only under certain conditions: warm, yes, hot, no. Rain is okay, but not if it’s stormy or windy.     

If I can succeed in sustaining its life, I’ll need to be on guard about its roots overgrowing its ceramic home – which would mean it’s time to re-pot.

In the earliest week of our late-coming springtime, I placed my bonsai tree outdoors on a little white wrought-iron two-chairs-with-table deck decoration.   

I had been dwelling upon the dilemma of this spring’s weather pattern. Robert Frost, my former favorite poet, asked, “When to the heart of man was it ever less than a treason to yield and accept the end of a season?” 

My deck looks neglected at the onset of early and uncertain May, or at the end of August, or with a pile of fallen leaves before the snowfalls of December/January.   

I had been brooding, as I made my way around my property, which is so hard and confusing to find, about what I could do to liven up and refresh this neglected nest of mine.   

And then, that very day, Emily’s gift appeared and answered my unstated plea for the rescue of our property. 

So, I took my outdated camera (also a present from Em) and snapped a few shots, both indoors and outdoors, of my Japanese pet tree – and here it is!

MIKE FINK (mfink33@aol.com) teaches at the Rhode Island School of Design.


Mike Fink, Pets