We planted our small orchard―a plum, two apples, a pear, a cherry―nearly a quarter century ago. My original vision didn't extend beyond the thought of these now-weighted branches. Of picking as if I were a child turned loose in a candy store, envisioning a sweet-wild taste in my mouth that no grocery purchase could touch. My teeth almost ached with lust for it all!
And after the first few years of their probing babyhood, my gawky, dusty-green adolescents began to blossom here and there between their shaggy knees and elbows. I recall with delight the first apple blossoms on our small "granny." Eden! Nothing less than Eden
. My tree.
It was my
beloved green granny! It still is. My soul is entangled in its lattice of leaves. Last year over a thousand apples ripened through October, like a mis-seasoned Yule tree all decked by nature.
Along the years, by a miracle of nature or bird or critter, three more gift-trees showed up: Our plum gave us many babies each spring, popping up beneath its sweep of limbs. We dug up and gave away some―and kept one, as fertile as its mama. Out front, in an old wooden tub of soil, an apricot seed cracked open and unfurled, and soon enough fruited.
Today, long and firmly grounded, it perfectly shades our spare bedroom, dangling its small golden-orange globes in front of the window. And in the tangle of vinca beside our front porch, a "bush" thrust up one spring, filling a bald space nicely. Lo, in a couple of years its strangely familiar blossoms spoke for it: apple! Rosy, tangy-sweet fruit now replicates delicately, bobbing in the breeze.
A bit like Elijah in his cave, we are, in God's quirky generosity, fed by ravens―yes, those hulking black shadows in the pine which nag incessantly, lest we forget that we owe them a dole a day from the seed bin. A fair trade indeed.
Now, upon this day, standing at the kitchen window, I see His current-timeless panorama. Our trees have aged along with us―creaky, a bit more brittle of limb. Weighted with fruit, or waiting―an inward thrust we cannot measure. Occasionally barren. Seasons of drought and of bounty . . . each of us, trees planted. Life as orchard.
Younger friends now come by in early summer and scale our ladders, with long-pole pruners in hand. They stretch to heights of our pear tree that we cannot, dare not reach―to trim dangerously bending branches. To cull what seems far too many immature pears. Ah, the timeless reluctance of letting go―of ladders, of fruit! Of whatever we cannot climb or carry. Weighing the promise of abundance against the poverties of broken. We have learned broken.
And now this new, sweet harvest―knowing this: These pears and grannies, et al, this varied fruit―"my" fruit
―I have discovered, is not mine at all, beyond the tending. Its unprecedented largess, newly picked or processed―by me, by delighted others―is scattered around the village and sometimes far beyond. That is the wonderful way of His Kingdom. The trees I have pruned are part of my own essential life-pruning. That's His way too.
And so, I celebrate this today also: a fruit-of-life called friending
I have years of canning, saucing, jamming, freezing, dehydrating behind me. Often done in tandem with friends both young and "almost-my-old"
old. The fruit of His labor. The labor of His fruit. My kitchen and heart are full.
This small Eden truly runneth over, flourishing in unexpected soul-soil, bursting through hard shells, blossoming into new identity. Often, oh yes, rooting and blossoming despite the entropy that time imposes, shaping something indefinable . . . sweet and tangy, birthed with promise.
Judith Deem Dupree's first nonfiction book, Sky Mesa Journal, was published by Wipf and Stock Publishers in 2016. She also has three prior volumes of poetry. Judith founded and directed (1996-2010) Ad Lib, a retreat and workshop for persons of faith engaging in creative arts. An establishing member of the San Diego Christian Writers Guild, she served on the board for many years, teaching locally and nationally. Judith also created and co-directed Mountain Empire Creative Arts Council in eastern San Diego County. Her current projects relate to completing work in fiction, music and drama, and always, poetry.
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Today I stewed up a vat of plums gathered from the arching boughs of our two trees out back. Tomorrow is Jam Day, a sticky-messy sauna of stirring and puree-ing and sprinkling in the magic of sugar and pectin. Then . . . oh, tasting the fruit of my labor! On homemade bread, I insist. Only that will do. The bread has been waiting, frozen, for this first sweet moment.