“O day after day we can’t help growing older.
Year after year spring can’t help seeming younger.
Come let’s enjoy our winecup today,
Nor pity the flowers fallen.” —Wang Wei (Tang Dynasty poet, c. 699-759)
This May is warm and beautiful. Today, driving back from errands and lunch in Sechelt, the thermometer in our car read 24° until we reached the hill above Sakinaw Lake and then it read 27°. I am watching the tomato plants grow by the minute. And the purple tomatillos I planted, the ones that sulked for weeks, are also shooting up. Beans are green and vigorous, the kale is, well, everywhere (because it seeds itself so happily and prolifically), and the first rose is out, a Madame Alfred Carrière, soft blush pink, almost white. Last night a friend came for dinner and we sat out in the falling light and he wondered what we’d done with our orchard. Looking down the bank from the deck, he could see what I try not to think about: an area scraped clear of salal and spindly cedars, both of which had encroached upon the old area of grass, moss, and fruit trees. Some of the trees had been broken by bears. And with the shift in our climate, with the long dry weeks of summer that were once rare but now seem to be the norm, John has been increasingly concerned about fire. He wanted a cleared area to act as a fire-break if the woods ever did burn. He arranged for a guy with a machine to come and do stuff I didn’t want to know about.
Our friend has been coming here for more than 30 years. He noticed all the lovely things—the faint birdsong, the wisterias in full and glorious bloom, the clematis fully recovered after the willow that supported it died and fell, taking the vine down with it. We watched blue orchard mason bees and paper wasps and drank wine as the air cooled once the sun went down. Overhead the various wind-chimes sounded their own music of shells, wood, and copper, all animated by the evening air.
I woke in the night, wondering how to allow myself to acknowledge the actual space where our orchard was. I try not to look at the bare ground when I stand on the deck overlooking that area. Last month, I refused to go down to smell the stray blossoms on a stunted pear, a stubborn Melba apple. But life is too short and too precious to turn away from what I’ve loved and what changed. As I’ve changed. As everything changes.
I did go once or twice over winter when various family members were here and wanted fires to roast marshmallows. Henry and Kelly helped John pile more sticks on the fire; Arthur too a few months later. It’s a different place. Maybe that’s the way to think of it, populated by others now—we saw a pair of coyotes trot across the cleared space in February, scouting out territory for their own family, at that point still unborn.
This morning I woke to the most generous review of Euclid’s Orchard. It has received lovely attention from people I know and some I don’t know and so it’s somehow easier to try to adjust to what is. What was has been recorded and loved. And now it’s time to make peace with the new possibilities of clear space, a few old trees, the delicate feet of others testing the ground, its potential, its seclusion.