The balcony in the rental building where I live in Etobicoke, Ontario in the Greater Toronto Area overlooks a road verge, a street-length strip of curbside lawn, sidewalk on one hand and car traffic on the other. Summer has withheld rain to another historic degree so the “lawn” is parched to hay thinness. Yet every Monday city lawn-mowers unload their roaring machines to crew-cut what little plant is left.
Luckily, my sidewalk lawn is not just tamed grass. Two years ago, the city planted a promise: a long row of locust trees, ginkgoes, sugar maples, and catalpas on both sides of Berry Road. The trees immediately below my balcony are three bushy horse chestnuts and three lanky oaks. A verdant verge to enjoy above the curtailed greenery of sheared lawn.
This heated July the trees of the verge are suffering. The chestnuts bloomed cream and pink but their fruit did not set as the rains diminished over June. Now in August, the tree leaves sag limp and limper. Literally overnight the slender top branches of one of the most elegant oaks crispened and retracted, baring the futile weave of a robin’s nest, the bird evicted before her eggs hatched. Around the corner, some young maples are already almost leafless.
The city came out once to water the trees. More often it is me with my pink plastic bucket who trots up and down, up and down the steps from the tap to sort of top up the watering bags that hug the tree trunks: fill, slosh, pour. Repeat. Occasionally the weather man ruefully declares a risk of rain or thunderstorm. He lies. These trees are living a drought life, standing their ground but stunted from stretching to the sky.
The city of humans grants trees place but such place cannot be trusted. The slender verge outside my balcony is a tree allowance, home, redoubt. Life on the verge of the new weather can no longer assure precipitation for disenfranchised trees. These days I am not so certain the oaks will outlive me.