Little House on the Heide
A Hole is to Dig

Last August we bought a falling down house outside of Berlin, in a biosphere reserve called the Schorfheide. The house moldered through another winter while we holed up in the city, and now that the siberian gloom has lifted, I’m pondering a stack of birds’ eye photos of the plot of land. There are also plans noting the exact location of the various structures we now own – barn, garage, bungalow, house. Could this be home, the treasure I’ve been chasing? X marks the spot. I guess you start by digging.

At night I leaf through a catalog from BBB: Barnimer Baumschule Biesendorf, falling asleep wondering how to best block out the view of the neighboring houses. The catalog was supposed to cost twenty euro but was free of charge after I told the lady at the register that I wanted to talk with Herr P, the nursery’s head honcho.

Herr G sent us, I added. This felt slightly illicit, or at least as close to illicit as I get these days.

In the morning, after a first sip of coffee, I’ve got the catalog in my hands again. I pore over pictures of obscure hardwoods, deciduous shrubs and climbing vines. When I get to the roses I begin shouting out the fantastic names: Fairy Dance! Little Artist! New Dawn!

M begs me to stop but I can’t because he hasn’t heard the best one, yet: Super Dorothy!

Who doesn’t need a little Super Dorothy in their life?”

He gives me a weary look.

“Fine, but I want a cherry tree. A Regina. Or maybe a Kordia or a Karina…” The names roll off my tongue in a vaguely exotic accent. I drool over the pictures like some creep choosing a mail-order bride. I’m a little obsessed, but not quite as much as I pretend to be.

M is not amused, perhaps because he understands what having a cherry tree means to me – that it’s about conjuring something that was lost long ago – and because he probably knows that I’m pretending to take everything lightly when in fact I am, as usual, way too serious. I use a permanent marker to draw circles on the plans, jotting in the Latin names: Tilia cordata, Pterocarya fraxinifolia, Forsythia suspensa fortunei.

After a late, cold winter, spring has finally come, abruptly, in mid-April. Everything has to go very fast now if we’re going to plant trees. I want to jump ahead and order some stuff called Grazers – I’ve heard it can keep the deer from eating the tasty young leaves – but I’m starting to understand that garden logic flows backwards. Roots first need to be yanked from the place they’ve grown. Holes need to be dug.