week after we moved a giant persimmon tree into the yard of our courtyard home, it wasn’t looking too good. Its bountiful green leaves had yellowed and sagged, and its beautiful red flowers were falling to the ground.
This was disappointing, but I figured the tree needed some time to grow new roots, and become comfortable in its new location. I had some concern the soil wasn’t rich enough, and was too rocky. But I figured trees move in slow motion, so we could wait a while and see what happens.
Over the last week, on a few occasions I heard my wife on the telephone with the woman who sold us the tree.
“What do you mean wait! The tree is dying!” “You sold us this tree, what are you going to do about it!” “Come out here and check on it. I can’t believe you are so irresponsible.”
In life, a person only has so much energy, especially as one gets older. You have to pick your battles, and I decided to keep out of the Battle of the Persimmon.
We recently hired a local woman to help clean the house. The extra help has been welcome, but the advice she has been giving my wife not so much. For example, our courtyard is covered with old big cobblestones, with tiny strips of earth between them.
One day my wife said, “You know, this house wouldn’t be so dusty if we just laid down concrete.” All of the local villagers have laid down concrete on yards. And all of the local villagers have knocked down their old wooded houses and put up concrete buildings. We live in a traditional wooden courtyard home. I flat out rejected this idea. “Well, how about laying down concrete between the stones?” I refused, on the grounds that our yard would become a lake each time it rained.
In addition, I suggested the vast majority of the dust is actually coming from the massive winds that come down from the nearby mountain.
I’ve been a committed vegetarian for 15 years. My housekeeper thinks this is profoundly unhealthy, and has started bringing meat over. I’ve been feeling lethargic, and she insisted it would help.
I’m not closed-minded, and tried a little, but it didn’t change anything. But now my wife is eating meat every day, and sometimes slipping it to me in dumplings and other places I am not expecting, believing it’s for my own good.
Remaining a vegetarian actually takes a certain amount of willpower, and this is not helping. Particularly the delicious local sausage from the housekeeper that my wife puts on the pizza she serves me. Oh well. As a friend of mine in her 80s once told me, “Virtue is often simply a lack of opportunity.”
Anyways, our housekeeper told my wife that the tree could not support all the leaves and branches before its new root system in place, and should be pruned.
This advice was repeated by our carpenter, and the woman who sold us the tree. So when my wife announced she was going to trim the tree, I said, “Yes dear.”
The next day, we were hosting a party, and a British friend said, “What happened to your tree?”
I turned around and looked at it.
Every twig and leaf had been removed, except for a few at the very tip top that my wife and the housekeeper could not reach with the ladder.
“This will seem funny one day,” I told myself as hormones flooded my body. I felt rage, disappointment, and terror at the prospect of spending the rest of my life with a confirmed tree-killer.
I examined it more closely. “It seems like whoever did this didn’t really have much concept of the biology behind how a tree lives,” my friend said dryly. “Look, on this segment of the tree, there’s not one leaf left.”
Too angry to socialize, I went up to my bedroom and researched pruning trees, including persimmon trees. I was hoping to find evidence that I was wrong, and trimming a tree bare was not as self-evidently murderous as it appeared to me.
Well, the internet agreed with me. At least the English-speaking internet. The consensus advice was: Under no circumstances trim more than one-third of a tree’s branches.
However, I mentioned the incident to a couple of Chinese friends, and they seemed to think it was normal. And an American friend, hearing the story, said, “Oh, that’s how the local people do it around here.” It’s a week later, and small leaflets are beginning to sprout. The leaves that remained are definitely looking more healthy. My wife says the tree is now able to provide the limited nutrition its damaged roots can draw to areas that need it most, ensuring the tree will survive. We’ll see if the tree makes a comeback. I’m not sure if I will ever be able to taste a persimmon from it, but I was right about one thing – the whole thing does seem funny now.