From Out of the Gravel


The vinca vine drank in the sunlight, and its leaves, once curled and parched, now looked like mini tea cups filled to the brim. Though the vine stayed green all winter long on the hill in my backyard, those months covered in snow left them wanting. And then I thought of the baby evergreen, so I walked over to see. Sure enough, there he was. His spiky top reached for the sunlight, too, and he stood no taller than a ruler. I brushed a few of the vinca vines away from his base, and wondered if pine trees grew in sub-zero temperatures.


How did he ever grow in the first place? I thought.


When I found him, two autumns ago, he’d resembled a weed, but the gravel behind a garbage bin was no place for a seedling of any type. I then had imagined him a tiny Christmas tree, and pondered rescuing him each evening when I took out the trash. Finally, his bristly arms had reached up and said, “Help.”


He spent the winter months of his infancy in the kitchen window. I can’t remember if I’d set him in dirt or a vase with water, but he thrived and grew little bright green fingers from his once stunted branches.


Then, on a warm spell of a day in March or April, I gave him a home in the backyard. I circled four stones around him as a border so he wouldn’t be crushed by anyone’s steps. Plus, I wanted to be able to find him. Iowa springs turn vegetation into jungle-like creatures, come summertime. I often detangled those vinca vines. How unwelcoming they were to a newcomer.


Would he become a tree? I wondered.


Shadows from neighboring trees now made lines over the vinca vines, and interrupted their sunshine drink. I went to retrieve my phone and used a scanning app for identifying plants. Yes, I realized. He was labeled an Eastern Redcedar, a species of juniper, and they could grow to be fifty feet. Someday squirrels would scramble over his branches and robins could stop and rest awhile.

Writing Prompt: Look for sunlight in an interesting setting and see what stems as writing material. Or, simply write about what you see in the path of the sunshine.

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