Wendy Barker In Praise of Stumps

Dumb as a stump, they say. My neighbor______
______hates stumps, and, after sawing down half
the trees on his manicured acre, wants all
______the stumps removed. Eyesores, they take
up space on his lawn. Not an easy job,
______stump removal. Grinders cost at least
a hundred bucks a day to rent, and he'd
______need goggles, a chain saw, a pick mattock,
digging bar, and a shovel. Potassium nirate
______works, with a drill and kerosene. Years ago,
I'd planned to rid my yard of its scraggly
______stumps, till I learned the roots of trees feed
each other, pump sugar into a stump
______to keep it from dying and the stump will
send out new sprouts that can lift into
______saplings, and then, in time, into full-sized
trees. I hadn't known that stumps provide
______nesting sites for chickadees, titmice, owls,
and woodpeckers, shelter for chipmunks,
______shrews, salamanders, and foxes. But my
neighbor's not the only one in this
______suburban enclave with codes more rigid
than a concrete slab: grass over six inches
______high bordering the street and you're in for
a big fine. I'm thinking of Hopkins'
______"Long live the weeds." I like our grasses
tall enough to ripple in the wind,
______so native salvias can bloom and feed
the butterflies and hummingbirds. Sick
______of tidiness, the desire to emulate British
country estates with our faux scaled-
______down mini-mansions floating on green
carpet no one ever touches, other than
______a hired man on his ride-em mower who
keeps the outdoors outside, keeps anyone
______from taking too deep a breath, from any
Whitmanesque desire to go live with
______the animals, which I'm fantasizing I might
want to do, but right now, I'll go out,
______speak to my dead trees, tell them I know
their roots are alive, connected to all
______the leafy trees nearby, and I know they're
signaling each other through an
______arboreal internet, their intricate fungal,
mycelial network, maybe warning
______about our thick, dumb-as-a-ditch skulls.


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