When I stand by the windows in the back of my apartment, the view isn't much to look at.
I see the back of a building, a tall fence surrounding the outdoor eating area of a restaurant (the "garden" I think they call it, but it's really just an area between two apartment buildings), cement and more cement. If I twist my neck to the left and lean toward the window, I can see a bit of sky and even some sunlight if it's early afternoon.
It used to be that when I was in bed looking up through the window, I could see a tree of heaven. Those are the scrappy trees that thrive in urban areas, breaking their way through cracks in sidewalks. The view from bed was beautiful with the leaves against the wall of the building behind mine.
When my daughter was little, I pretended the tree talked to her. The tree had a low, slow way of speaking that calmed her at night and lulled her to sleep.
The tree of heaven told her that all the trees in the city communicated with each other, spreading news treetop to treetop with their rustling leaves in the wind. He told her he knew what she did all day because the other trees saw her and told him everything. She fell asleep to the tree of heaven narrating her day back to her.
A few years later, when she was old enough to know that the tree's voice was mine, we had to spend a particular day indoors. I don't remember why we had to stay home that day, but I remember the noise from outside. We heard a power saw and the sound of a tree being cut down and chopped up. I looked out the window and gasped. My daughter cried.
The business around the corner was expanding and needed more storage space, more office space, more space that was behind our building. They didn't need the tree.
My daughter had a new diary at the time, and on the first page she drew a picture of her tree of heaven and a picture of herself crying. The caption read, "Today is a sad day." There are no other entries in that diary, though she has filled plenty of books with her stories and pictures. She doesn't want that diary anymore with the sad story in it, but I keep it.
My drawing in this post is of seed pods from a tree of heaven. It might look like a dried-up twig, but to me the seed pods look like the possibility of green leaves against a cement wall and of a little girl falling asleep feeling cozy and looked after.
When I stand next to my back windows now, I see the roof of the storage space of the expanded business below me. And, I see a couple of trees of heaven breaking through the cracks in the cement.
A shadow study with two light sources. Colored pencil in Moleskine sketchbook.