From blossoms comes this brown paper bag of peaches we bought from the boy at the bend in the road where we turned toward signs painted Peaches.
From laden boughs, from hands, from sweet fellowship in the bins, comes nectar at the roadside, succulent peaches we devour, dusty skin and all, comes the familiar dust of summer, dust we eat.
O, to take what we love inside, to carry within us an orchard, to eat not only the skin, but the shade, not only the sugar, but the days, to hold the fruit in our hands, adore it, then bite into the round jubilance of peach.
There are days we live as if death were nowhere in the background; from joy to joy to joy, from wing to wing, from blossom to blossom to impossible blossom, to sweet impossible blossom. ~Li-Young Lee from Rose
On this farm orchard in the north, it’s a harvest of apples and pears rather than peaches.
Each day we fill up on sauce and juice as fruit rains down in the winds of late summer.
Only four months ago these were mere buds opening up to soft petals raining like snow in the spring breezes. Impossibly, those blossoms became fruit that will sustain us through a bare winter.
From joy to joy to joy. From wing to wing to wing. From season to season to season.
into the coppery halls of beech and intricate oak to be close to the trees as they whisper together let fall their leaves, and we die for the winter ~Katherine Towers “Whim Wood” from The Remedies
Lord: it’s time. The summer was magnificent. Lay your shadows upon the sun-dials and o’er the isles allow your winds to vent.
Command the final fruits to be full and fine; give them two more days in the southern sun, push them to completion and then run the last sweetness through the heavy wine.
He who now has no house, will build one never. He who is alone, will long so remain, will awaken, read, lengthy letters pen and in the lanes will forever restlessly wander, when the leaves are driven. ~Rainer Maria Rilke “Autumn Day”
I’m drawn to pathways that lead to an unseen destination ahead.
Perhaps the endpoint is out of sight round a curve, or over a rise, or it is too far distant for my eyes to find.
I’m called to journey forth, even when staying put seems easier. There is a restlessness to these days, to these wanderings, as I keep looking behind to see where I’ve been.
Lord, help me find my way. Lord, it is time I find my way.
steal through us
fir-fingers touch one another
where the paths meet
thick dripping resin
glues us together
hammer at hardy
seed-hiding hearts~Inger Christensen (1963)
trans. Susanna Nied
A visit to a temperate rain forest (Hoh Rain Forest in Olympic National Park only a ferry-ride and short drive away from where we live) reminds me of how glued we are to this place we live and to each other. We wander paths past 300 year old trees that cling to one another and will for many more generations, hanging with the crepe of dangling moss. They are closely tethered together, taking others down with them when they eventually fall to the wind and then nurse the sprouting and growth of the next generation’s seeds from their long rotting trunks.
Among their midst, the streams flow clear and pristine, feeding the roots and shoots of all growing things.
Our hearts are too often harder than this firm and weathered bark covered in the drapery of moss. How willingly do I give myself up for the next generation? How silently do I reach out to touch the ones next to me and hang on steady through the strong and destructive winds of time?
May we know this Alpha and Omega who lay down for us, our beginning and ending, our nurture and our protector.
My father’s treehouse is twenty three years old, lonesome and empty in our front yard, a constant reminder of his own abandoned Swiss Family Robinson dreams. Over the years, it has been the setting for a local children’s TV show, laser tag wars, sleep overs and tea parties, even my writer’s retreat with a deck side view of the Cascades to the east, the Canadian Coastal Range to the north and Puget Sound to the west. Now it is a sad shell no longer considered safe, as the support branches in our 100+ year old walnut tree are weakening with age and time.
The dream began in February 1995 when our sons were 8 and 6 years old and our daughter just 2. We had plenty of recycled lumber on our old farm and an idea about what to build. My father, retired from his desk job and having recently survived a lymphoma diagnosis and treatment, had many previous daunting building projects to his credit, and a few in his mind that he was yet to get to. He was eager to see what he could construct for his grandkids by spring time. He doodled out some sketches of what might work in the tree, and contemplated the physics of a 73 year old man scaling a tree vs. building on the ground and hoisting it up mostly completed. I got more nervous the more I thought about it and hoped we could consider a project less risky, and hoping the weather wouldn’t clear enough for construction to start any time soon.
The weather cleared as simultaneously my father’s health faded. His cancer relapsed and he was sidelined with a series of doctor’s appointments, hospitalizations and treatment courses. He hung on to that hope of getting the treehouse going by summer, still thinking it through in his mind, still evaluating what he would need to buy to supplement the materials already gathered and piled beneath the tree. In the mean time he lost physical strength day by day.
His dream needed to proceed as he fought his battle, so I borrowed library books on treehouses, and hired two college age brothers who lived down the road to get things started. I figured if my dad got well enough to build again, at least the risky stuff could be already done by the young guys. These brothers took their job very seriously. They pored over the books, took my dad’s plans, worked through the details and started in. They shinnied up the tree, put up pulleys on the high branches and placed the beams, hoisting them by pulling on the ropes with their car bumper. It was working great until the car bumper came off.
I kept my dad updated long distance with photos and stories. It was a diversion for him, but the far off look in his eye told me he wasn’t going to be building anything in this world ever again. He was gone by July. The treehouse was done a month later. It was everything my dad had dreamed of, and more. It had a deck, a protective railing, a trap door, a staircase. We had a open tree celebration and had 15 neighbors up there at once. I’m sure dad was sipping lemonade with us as well, enjoying the view.
Now all these years later, the treehouse is tilting on its foundation as a main weight bearing branch is weakening. We’ve declared it condemned, not wanting to risk an accident. It remains a daily reminder of past dreams fulfilled and unfulfilled as I look out my window. Much like my father’s body, the old walnut tree is weakening, hanging on by the roots, but its muscle strength is failing. It will, sometime, come down in one of our frequent fierce windstorms, just as its nearby partner did a few years ago.
The treehouse dream branched out in another way. One of the construction team brothers decided to try building his own as a place to live in his woods, using a Douglas Fir tree as the center support and creating an octagon, two stories, 30 feet off the ground. He worked on it for two years and moved in, later marrying someone who decided a treehouse was just fine with her, and for 16 years, they’ve raised five children there. The treehouse kids are old enough to come work for me on our farm, a full circle feeling for me. This next generation is carrying on a Swiss Family Robinson dream that began in my father’s mind and our front yard.
I still have a whole list full of dreams myself, some realized and some deferred by time, resources and the limits of my imagination. I feel the clock ticking too, knowing that the years and the seasons slip by me faster and faster. It would be a blessing to me to see others live out the dreams I have held so close.
Like my father, I will some day teeter in the wind like our old tree, barely hanging on. When ready to fall to the ground, I’ll reach out with my branches and hand off my dreams too. The time will have come to let them go.
After all, I don’t see why I am always asking
for private, individual, selfish miracles
when every year there are miracles like … dogwood. ~Anne Morrow Lindbergh
It started last week. The tree right in front of our porch, having looked dead for the past six months, started to bud out in subtle pink petalled blossoms. The previous week there had been nothing remarkable whatsoever about the tree.
This week it is a feast for the eyes, almost blinding in its brilliance.
Each year the dogwood startles me. From dead to brilliant in a mere two weeks. And not only our tree, but every other pink dogwood within a twenty mile radius has answered the same late April siren call:
bloom your heart out!
dazzle every retina in sight!
And it is done simultaneously on every tree, all the same day, without a sound, without an obvious signal, as if an invisible conductor had swooped a baton up and in the downbeat everything turned pink.
Or perhaps the baton is really a wand, shooting out pink stars to paint these otherwise plain and humble trees, so inconspicuous the rest of the year.
Ordinarily I don’t dress up in finery like these trees do. I prefer inconspicuous for myself. But I love the celebratory joy of those trees in full blossom and enjoy looking for them in yards and parks and along sidewalks.
Maybe there is something pink in my closet I can wear. Maybe conspicuously miraculous every once in awhile is exactly what is needed.
Then again, I think I’ll leave the miracles to the trees…
If you stand in an orchard In the middle of Spring and you don’t make a sound you can hear pink sing, a darling, whispery song of a thing. ~Mary O’Neill from Hailstones and Halibut Bones “Pink”
Just before the green begins there is the hint of green a blush of color, and the red buds thicken the ends of the maple’s branches and everything is poised before the start of a new world, which is really the same world just moving forward from bud to flower to blossom to fruit to harvest to sweet sleep, and the roots await the next signal, every signal every call a miracle and the switchboard is lighting up and the operators are standing by in the pledge drive we’ve all been listening to: Go make the call. ~Stuart Kestenbaum “April Prayer”
The buds have been poised for weeks
and then, as if responding to the Conductor’s downstroke,
let go of all their pent up potential~
exploding with harmonious energy
enough to carry them all the way to autumn
when again they let go
and are gone with the wind.