Start With a Good Shove

The previous owner had neglected the yard for years, so when Richard and I bought this house, there were plenty of projects to keep us busy. He was happier than a pig in slop because his project-loving self had been cooped up in an apartment for many years.

One of the first projects he settled on was taking out a dead dogwood tree. It sat near the corner of the house, too close to the power lines for his reckoning.


“I think we should call a tree surgeon.” He rolled his eyes at my suggestion. It wasn’t THAT big of a tree. But it was too big for a hand saw, so we went over to Home Depot and bought a little chain saw.

I made him buy eye protection too and he laughed at me.

Back in the front yard, he yanked ivy away from the base of the tree while I watched from the safety of the front steps.

“Have you ever used one of these before?”

“For cryin’ out loud, Ashley–yes, I know how to use a chain saw. We used one every summer at Camp Greenbriar.” When I still didn’t look convinced, he reminded me that the army allowed him to blow stuff up for many years, way bigger stuff than a dead tree. Still.

Before he pulled the cord to crank it, I yelled, “WAIT!” I ran inside the house and came back with the phone, so I could call 911 if anything horrible happened. Again with the eye rolling.

Richard studied the space between the tree limbs and the power lines and decided on the angle he needed to cut to get the tree to fall in the right direction. I clutched the phone and braced myself. He placed his hand on the crumbling bark gave it a little shove to make sure none of the branches were ready to fall right on his head.

The tree moved a good three inches. He looked up at me on the porch and grinned.

He put both hands on the trunk and gave it a good shove.

The tree fell flat over onto the lawn with a whump.

The trunk was so rotten that the ivy had been holding it up.

We laughed. God, how we laughed.

“Well, I’m glad we didn’t call the tree surgeon.” Then I went back inside and put the phone on the charger.

So much of my life has been like that episode with the tree–the hours spent in worry and planning, buying safety goggles and wondering if I shouldn’t leave it to a professional. When I finally get around to attacking the thing, it’s a whole lot easier than my mind has made it out to be.

I haven’t written in eleven days, because I didn’t know how to begin. How can I stop writing about my grief when I’ve barely scratched the surface? But how can I write again about grief when last night was Halloween and it was lovely to see my tiny Iron Man run from house to house? Today is All Souls’ Day or All Saints or Dia de los Muertos, depending on where you grew up. Terri is walking the labyrinth; Brantley and Luis built an altar in their home. The picture of our friend Spencer is right next to the photo of Lola the pup rescued from Taiwan. But I don’t want to write about that–I don’t even want to think about the ones who have passed through the door.

This little story about the tree seemed as good a way as any to get my fingers moving again. To get myself off the porch. To start with a good shove.



12 thoughts on “Start With a Good Shove

  1. Brandy H

    Ashley, even in your grief the words you write are encouraging and inspirational to all that read them. It is good to hear you found enjoyment watching Carlos Trick or Treat…those that passed through the door would want nothing less than for you to find happiness in the little things in life! Keep Pushing!!!

  2. Linda D.

    What Cheryl said. You don’t have to jump right in. You’re allowed to be cautious and take baby steps if that’s where your heart is leading you right now. Take care of your heart – that’s where all your words are coming from. Your brain is just putting them together artfully.

  3. Chris Antenen

    I missed you, Ashley, but I get it, and don’t be surprised if a year or two down the road, it hits you again like a stab to the gut. But then, you know about that. Grief is a process like everything else and unlike everything else.

    For the first time in years, I got to hand out candy. Our house is so hard to access with little feet, so the most we ever had was teenagers at 9 or 10. Now we just turn off the outside lights and recognize that another yearly fun event has ended.

    Then Amy and Wes moved to town!. We went there for the Florida game (ugh) and could hand out lots of candy to friends’ and neighbors’ kids. Amy and I sat outside while Wes and Wayne were inside watching the game, but I could see them through the glass doors.. We developed a smooth system. The front door leads into the patio, but the bell rings in the house. The system went like this. Doorbell rings, Lumpkin barks, Wes waves his arms at me, I get up to open the door, which is a clue to Amy to bring the candy dish. Worked for two hours and we have enough candy left for three more years, even after telling all kids to grab hands full.

    Love you, Ash. Hang in there.

    1. Baddest Mother Ever Post author

      I’m glad to hear Amy and Wes have moved here! I love handing out candy, even if it means the dog goes wild. I love you, my friend.

  4. Terri

    I did walk the labyrinth, and I thought about how you told me about the one at Grace Cathedral in SF not long before I just happened to be going there. Full circle, in a way. 🙂 And I did take the liberty of putting your dad’s name on the “list of saints” – seeing his name beside my parents’ was bittersweet but it is also a reminder that none of us walk our paths alone. Peace to you.

  5. Cynthia @ Flotsam of the Mind

    There is a lot of wisdom in this post. As always, you tell a great story. I’ve been as lax about reading blogs as I have been about writing them, but your words always make me come back for more.

    1. Baddest Mother Ever Post author

      If you can’t write, get your camera out. FIVE MINUTES with it and you will feel great! Thanks for reading.


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