The Crabapple Dirge

I’ve been gardening for a long time, and I like to think I (mostly) know what I’m doing.  I usually have pretty flowerbeds and tasty veggies.  But fruit trees?  That’s another matter entirely.

If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you may remember the tale of Doing the Crabapple Tango.  In it, I mentioned that my crabapple tree had been pruned by an irresponsible orangutan:  Me.  (Or rather, not pruned; merely allowed to grow into a mess of crisscrossing branches.)

Fast-forward to 2016, when I eagerly planted two cherry trees, two apple trees, a crabapple, a peach, and a plum tree at our new place.  I use the word “trees” loosely here – they were actually more like whippy little twigs.  But that was okay, because I had resolved that this time I was going to prune my trees properly right from the start.  And I’d never have to do the Crabapple Tango again!

So I watched a bunch of videos on YouTube and read long dissertations on the correct methods of pruning and shaping… and then I went out last weekend with my pruners.  (Yes, it was time — the sap was already rising in the cherry trees.)

I just want to say that I hate pruning.  I like growing plants, not hacking pieces off them.  But all the gardening websites say it has to be done, so I steeled myself for the task.

I consulted the videos again.  I walked around and around my trees, studying the bud locations and visualizing where and how the new limbs would grow.  Then I trimmed out crossing branches and branches going toward the centre of the tree, and made heading cuts to encourage new branches at the height I wanted.

Then I crept back into the house weighed down by a huge black cloud of guilt over butchering my poor trees.  Where before I had perky little saplings, now I have sad little truncated twigs standing forlornly in full view of all the windows, where I’ll be forced to look at them every day and contemplate my sins.

I feel so awful about what I’ve done that I’m not even going to post pictures — it would be like a murderer posting photos of her innocent victims.

I hope they live.  All the gardening sites say they will, and I really did follow their instructions; but the poor wee twigs are heart-wrenching.  I don’t know whether it would be best if they survive to absolve me of the guilt, or die quickly so I can buy new unmutilated ones and pretend this whole sorry affair never happened.

Maybe from now on I’ll just let them grow the way they want.  Really, the Crabapple Tango wasn’t so bad — there was a high probability of personal injury, but at least my conscience was clear.

Would somebody please tell me that this is all normal and my trees are going to be okay?  (Feel free to lie through your teeth if necessary.)

’Cause I’m really hoping I won’t have to write a Crabapple Dirge.

*bells toll solemnly in the background*

Book 14 update:  Chapter 44 and counting.  My books usually come in around 50 chapters, but this one is ballooning.  Time to sharpen my editing knife!


Yesterday I was out for a walk when I came upon a fire truck parked by the curb. There was clearly no emergency; the truck wasn’t running and there were no flashing lights. So naturally I watched for firemen as I got closer. After all, what red-blooded woman wouldn’t take advantage of a gratuitous gawk?

Just as I came abreast of the truck, the firemen returned from a nearby shop: Four tall handsome guys in crisp navy-blue uniforms. They smiled at me. One even said hi.

My heart should have gone ‘pit-a-pat’, right?


My heart went ‘thud’, my gaze skittered guiltily to the ground, and I couldn’t even choke out a ‘hi’ in return before I rushed away, hoping my brisk stride telegraphed ‘I’m in a hurry to take care of some very important business’ and not ‘I just committed a crime and I’m fleeing the scene’.

It was the damn uniforms that got me. If they’d been in their fire-fighting gear, my biggest worry would have been hiding the drool on my chin. But I have such severe issues with uniformed authority figures that even Customs border guards and rent-a-cops give me the willies.

The mere sight of a police car makes my palms sweat and my pulse pound. Uniformed officers by the side of the road? Massive adrenaline spike. And I absolutely hate it when a police car follows me in traffic. I’m ten times more likely to commit a traffic infraction just out of sheer nervousness. I was driving home one night when I spotted two guys in reflective vests beside the road, and I nearly stroked out before I realized they were just city workers dealing with a blocked storm drain.

It’s a silly reaction, and I know better. I have friends who are police officers. They’re nice guys. They don’t loom over me waiting for me to break the law.

I have no idea why police uniforms freak me out. I’m the most law-abiding person I know. I drive as close to the speed limit as humanly possible (which, in Calgary, makes me the slowest thing on the road). If I get incorrect change or find an extra deposit in my bank account, I return the money immediately. Hell, once I found a $20 bill blowing around a mall parking lot, and I dropped it off at the Lost and Found. What a chump!

But apparently I have a massive guilt complex.

Maybe the roots lie in the sponge toffee trauma I suffered in childhood, or maybe it’s because I spend quite a bit of my time planning crimes for my novels so I have a knee-jerk ‘uh-oh’ reaction to police. Heaven help me if anybody ever develops a machine that can sense a person’s feelings of guilt. I’ll end up in jail for crimes I didn’t even know existed.

Still, I feel badly about snubbing those nice firemen. Maybe I should bake some cookies and drop them off at the local firehall to apologize.

But they might have a uniformed guy at the front desk…

Do you think they’d find it odd if I left a bag of cookies outside the door and called it in from an untraceable phone?

* * *

P.S. My best friend from university days is visiting me this week, so I’ll be slower to respond to comments than usual. Your comments mean a lot to me, though, and I’ll look forward to ‘talking’ to you as soon as I get a chance. 🙂

P.P.S. Another new cover is ready! Here’s Book 7:

AK-7 cover final 2015

SpongeToffee GuiltyPants

I feel irrational guilt when dealing with authority figures.  I blame sponge toffee.

Back in the days when dinosaurs roamed the earth, the general stores used to carry slabs of it.  It was pure sugar whipped into foam and solidified to the brittle consistency of glass.  You could chew it into a hard, sticky pellet, or you could suck it and let its sharp edges lacerate your tongue.  To a child, it was pure, golden-brown heaven.

Unfortunately, that divine confection was responsible for the most traumatic discovery of my childhood:  the fact that it is possible to do something bad even when you’re not trying.

Don’t get me wrong, I was no stranger to doing naughty things in the full knowledge that I’d be in trouble for them later.  I was also a master of doing things that I was pretty sure would get me in trouble if I was caught, but they hadn’t been specifically itemized as “bad”, so they were a grey area.

But back to the sponge toffee.  I can’t remember how old I was.  I had been sent into the store to purchase something while my mother stayed in the car, probably tending to my baby sister.

I had “grown-up money” to buy “grown-up groceries”, and I was proud.  I selected whatever it was that I was supposed to buy and marched up to the counter, cash in hand.  And spotted the slabs of sponge toffee.  Five cents.  (Yeah, it really was that long ago.  Shut up.)

I bought the groceries, and I bought a piece of sponge toffee.

And I caught holy hell.

I couldn’t understand.  I’d bought it.  I hadn’t stolen it.  But apparently, using other people’s money to buy something for yourself was the same as stealing.  Who knew?  (So much for the concepts of mortgages and credit cards.)

I can’t remember for sure, but I doubt the consequences were particularly dire.  I probably had to pay back the nickel out of my ten-cent allowance, and I probably didn’t get to eat the toffee, but the lesson remained, written in letters of flame upon my soul.

Even when you think you’re not guilty, you are.

Which probably explains my reflexive “Oh, shit, what have I done?” reaction whenever I see a police car.

And don’t even get me started about the Canada Revenue Agency tax forms that require you to sign where it says “I certify that the information given on this return and in any documents attached is correct, complete, and fully discloses all my income.”  Just to really get my knickers in a twist, they add “It is a serious offence to make a false return”.

As if I wasn’t already suffused with anticipatory guilt.

What if I make a mistake without realizing it?  Or what if somebody else makes a mistake on a T-slip or one of the other “any documents attached”?  I’m guilty, guilty, guilty.

I don’t really enjoy sponge toffee anymore, either.

Anybody else with an overactive conscience?  Or am I just seriously messed up?  Or… is that not an “or” question?