The doorbell rang. When I answered, our little neighbor, Denise, looked up at me with her big blue eyes.
"Can I play with Fish?" she asked.
"Fish?" I said.
"Your new baby, Fish."
"You mean Leif?"
"Oh, yeah, Leif. I knew his name had something to do with nature."
We still laugh over that exchange that took place 26 years ago. And this son, who was born on Earth Day and whose name sounds like it has something to do with nature, just happens to love yard work. We have pictures of him raking leaves as a toddler. In high school, he worked at Greg's Nursery delivering pine straw and in college he landscaped yards in Sugarloaf Country Club.
He was just born with a knack for nature. For example, I would buy dozens of $1 azaleas, thinking that if they died, it wasn't much money wasted. He insisted I should pay the price for big plants with a good root system. As all my cheap azaleas died off, he started buying me azaleas for Easter and Mother's Day. Now when we admire our lush bank of blooms, he loves to ask, "OK, Mom, which ones did I buy and which ones did you buy?"
When we bought our wooded lot, I didn't want to cut down a tree for anything. My Earth Day child said we should thin out the trees that looked like cocktail toothpicks so the remaining trees could spread their leaves. I asked Dale Higdon, senior forester at the Georgia Forestry Commission, for advice. He said, "Thinning the small, poorly formed stems is recommended so that the tall and straight stems will become the dominant trees."
And then there was the privet. I was so thrilled to have anything green growing in the woods that I actually pruned it and babied it, trying to get it to fill in. Leif kept telling me to pull it up and throw it out.
"But it's green!" I protested. "Why would anyone kill anything that's green?"
When I consulted Higdon about this landscaping battle, he said, "The biggest problem that needs to be addressed is the removal of invasive plants, particularly the Chinese privet. I recommend that homeowners concentrate on removing these invasive plants before thinning the native saplings."
Whether it's his Earth Day birthday, or his "green" sounding name, Leif has lots of ideas for making the earth a better place.
And one tip I especially love: To uplift at least one living thing on earth, when some high school kid making money for college unloads 100 bales of pine straw in your yard, slip a little "green" into his hand.
Susan Larson is a Lilburn resident. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.