pruning fruit trees in vacant lots for dave

warning i’m just telling you now this is  a long one.

today marks the 2 year anniversary of my good friend dave kujawa’s death.  he was one of my favorite people, one of those people i most looked up to, a person who inspired me.  he had an amazing spirit and warmth about him, his hugs always made me feel loved and welcomed, and i always felt he had time for me.  which was surprising because dave had a lot on his plate – forming the infoshop and show space idle kids, booking shows, working on his house, working full-time, planting gardens, caring for his young son.  we worked on projects together, danced at shows and late night parties, had tons of deep conversation around the fire, cooked food not bombs together, and talked about plans for the new world – the one that would be free and just and beautiful for all people.

i remember dave mentioning in the past him having some mental conditions, and i had always wondered if it might be bipolar.  he had that intensity about him that reminded me of others i have know who have suffered from this condition.  a few weeks before he went into the hospital i had drinks with him and remember him sketching out for me on napkins and place mats grandiose plans for the neighborhood we both lived in.  i was a little worried then, but i didn’t say anything.  a couple of days before he went into the hospital i visited him again, he had invited me over for dinner because he and his partner were celebrating their engagement, he was throwing a little party with a couple of close friends.  when i arrived it didn’t look like a party at all, and dave was not entertaining but in the basement.  he had holed himself up, and explained to me all the projects he was working on, how he had it figured out, how it all made sense, how it was all connected.  the diagrams he showed me looked like little more than the scribblings of a 5-year-old – over and over again he had written about how he was his grandfather.  i hoped he was just really stoned, but i knew better.

when i saw his partner k later upstairs i looked deeply into her eyes and asked her if everything was ok.  she said yes, that dave hadn’t been sleeping much but everything was ok.  i put my trust in her.  but then things got a little stranger, when i asked her about the party she said she didn’t know anything about it, and no they were not engaged or anything.  i left feeling the massive weight in the house.

a few days later i found out dave had been institutionalized, and there was much confusion as he made phone calls claiming that he had been tricked and force against his will to enter the hospital.  later when everything was sorted out, it was obvious that dave was suffering from a manic episode.  i found myself reflecting back on the last month or so, thinking of all clues i had had, of all the chances to say something, but i figured his partner k could handle it.  i thought back to even to a bit further in the month when ironically he had been to an icarus project workshop, how he didn’t seem to be able to sit still and kept speaking out of turn like a little child.  i found him sitting outside latter laughing at his cell phone.  he told me he was saving messages from friends and would listen to them and laugh and laugh and laugh.  it turned out dave had  never even told k about his illness.  she had no idea what to look for, she was completely caught off guard.

i visited dave in the hospital a few times.  visiting hours were very limited and only 2 people could go at a time , and lots of people wanted to see him.  he lost interest in talking pretty soon so i didn’t get to spend a lot of time with him.  mostly he wanted to see k.

when he got out i visited him a few times, he came over for dinner, i stopped by to see him, but i had to force myself to do it.  it was more like talking with the shell of my friend.  the person i loved wasn’t even there.  he didn’t want to take the meds, didn’t want to go to therapy, and i can’t say that i blame him.  i just wanted my friend back, and there seemed no easy solution.  i was basically avoiding him, because i couldn’t stand the situation.

and then early on the morning of march 23rd, my friend m knocked on my front door.  i thought it strange because m is hardly a morning person and i was up and getting ready for work.  s answered the door and i could see m’s silhouette in the door.  i could feel something was wrong, and then the news was broken to me.  dave had shot himself the afternoon before.

i don’t really remember much about those days after words.  i remember going to belle isle – staring out into the expanse of gray water, watching the ice flow by, a few sea gulls resting on floating blocks of ice.  i remember hugs, an endless line of hugs, it almost never felt like i was not embracing someone.  and my shoulder wet with so many tears.  we went over to dave’s house for a potluck, and i remember toasting him, and walking back home, hardly able to see the sidewalk, the tears streaming out of my eyes so much.  i remember his service, one unlike anything he would want.  i remember the anger and frustration i felt.  i remember the guilt of not having spent enough time with him, because i was too scared to deal with him in his state.  our house became like a bunk house for those that couldn’t stand the thought of being alone.  while it might appear we were doing them a favor by providing a place for them to stay, i was comforted to have more of my community around.

this morning while thinking about dave, i realized i couldn’t really quite remember what his voice sounded like.  it was strange because i think i had thought i was always remember it, and i found it a little more difficult to remember his face.  i guess that’s how people start to fade from ones memory, and i’m not sure if there is anyway to hold on to that.

for the past couple of years a may day bike ride to belle isle has been the form of celebration of dave’s life, it usually ends in total drunkenness, and a big hot mess of  a bonfire.  while i recognize this was a part of dave’s personality, he was certainly down to have a good time, and could get pretty sloppy from time to time, but he was also one of the hardest working people i ever met.  with that in mind, i recommended something in his honor i thought he would like best: a workday.

but not just any old workday, something dave would particularly like – something in his community, something to serve the better good, and something a bit ridiculous  and so it is after over 1100 words that i finally get to the reason for this post – pruning trees in the vacant lots of north corktown.

there are many fruit trees in the city on vacant lots, many of them long neglected, and they can serve as an excellent source of free fresh food, and even better if well pruned.

pruning the apple

we had just started pruning this guy when this picture was snapped.  as you can see it needs a ton of help, and it doesn’t really help that it was pruned into a pretty strange form to begin with.  we could only do so much and so we began with pruning out dead would and then opening it up some.

close to the end of pruning the first apple

we took out a ton of wood, but there is still lots of work to do over the coming year to do in order to get it into a better form.  eventually i’d like to prune it to be lower, but don’t want to take off those major trunks all at once.  still it looks a lot better and i think we will have more to work with next year.

apple tree a vacant lot behind brother natures place

next up was a tree in a lot behind brother nature’s spot.  you can see one of his high tunnels, row cover and various piles of dirt from projects he is working on in the back ground.  this tree has been kept in good shape but is right next to a siberian elm which one of these days i will take out.  mostly we just trimmed out the dead wood and some water sprouts.

after that we uncovered a pear by cutting down a tree of heaven that was blocking it on all sides

the apricot tree

finally we trimmed up this apricot tree.  this one is among my favorites, i love fresh apricots.  they are wonderful to eat out of hand, good for drying, and make a wonderful mead.  the apricot mead i have in the fermenter right now has fruit from this tree.  there is something wonderfully satisfying about caring for a long neglected tree, in a way that pruning a tree that has been cared for every year never does.  i find myself asking questions about this tree, who planted it, what were they thinking when they put it there, what were their hopes and dreams for the tree, why did they abandon it.  i can almost hear the tree thanking me, after so many years of being neglected, i never thought anyone would come back.  i never thought anyone would care for me again.  but you did, and i thank you.

and i thank you dave, for everything you did in your 30 short years.  thank you for your friendship, your inspiration, your spirit and your passion.  i miss you so much, i only hope that i can inspire a couple of people to make the world a better place in the way that you were able to with everyone you touched.  i love you.

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5 responses to “pruning fruit trees in vacant lots for dave

  1. Pingback: its been a while eh? « Staceymalasky's Weblog

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  4. Dave was very precious to me and so many in the Detroit community. Even though I am no longer a part of that community, I miss him dearly.

  5. Thank you for posting this. Dave and I dated in high school and I’ve thought about him often since. I heard about his death and was only able to sum up depression and hospitalization from the comments in his obituary, I never got the full details. Being bipolar I myself, I was haunted by whatever might have happened to him and now that my thoughts have been confirmed, I now have a resolution.

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