Dearest Rachel –
Well, it’s another sign of spring these days, when the plant life starts to show off their blossoms and colors for the new season.
It’s kind of ironic, that. While you looked forward to the idea of gardening once we bought ourselves a house (with your parents’ assistance: I remember well how your dad said, “I want my grandson to have a sandbox” when he and your mom made their proposal to help us. As an equally ironic twist, Daniel was never much for that sandbox, which we finally tore apart late last fall to make room for the new shed. He enjoyed the swingset next to it, though, so getting a backyard wasn’t a total waste), nothing we ever planted has lasted quite like those daffodils. We’d had a flowerbed by the lamp post, but they withered away after only a couple of years (although some of what we planted there might have been annuals – I wasn’t really a part of the process, save for buying the flowers in the first place). The lilac bush by the side of the garage stopped blooming a couple of years ago – and you admitted that you hadn’t been able to smell them since your first surgery to remove the tumor on your optic nerve ten years ago or so.
Basically, what we planted didn’t last anywhere near as much as what was already here – or what simply grew up without our efforts.
And that goes for the apple tree that used to be part of our front yard.
I honestly don’t recall if it sprouted up as a weed tree, or if it was already there when we moved in. We found some documentation yesterday from the time when we first were looking into purchasing this place, and it doesn’t show the tangle of trees to the right side of the house very clearly.
And a tangle of trees they were, the cherry and the apple, once upon a time. Limbs all but intertwined with each other to the point where is was hard to tell, unless one or the other was blossoming or bearing fruit, as to which one was which. To be sure, they neither flowered nor fruited at the same time, but I often wondered if each of them encouraged wildlife that would pollinate the other in a sort of symbiotic relationship. It really didn’t matter all that much, as the fruit was never much worth dealing with. At least, not from our perspective. Chompers, on the other hand, was often stopping to gnaw on an apple or two when we would go on walks in the fall, and I think you would occasionally bring in a few that he took a particular shine to, cut it up, and put it on top of his MRE as a special treat. And of course, Erin would occasionally ask to climb the tree and retrieve some apples for herself – I think she planned to make applesauce with them, but I don’t recall. All I know was that they did not look like eating apples – tiny and green, with a fair number of bruises and pits – there wasn’t much appealing about them.
But it was still something, considering we never made any effort to cultivate either of the trees – not that we would have known how if we had.
Late last year, we decided to get rid of the old, rusted-out shed in the far back of our backyard (it was so far back, in fact, that it was sitting on the easement – essentially, this meant that the new shed, despite our efforts to get something with the same size footprint, could not be placed in the same spot, but had to be set up several feet in from both our back and side fences. Village ordinances and such). It took a couple of months to get it custom built and brought over, but once it was, it turned out that the installers could not get the materials to the back yard, as the tree limbs hung down so low that they could not get anything past them. The trees would have to be pruned.
But on further investigation, it turned out there was some kind of illness in both of them as well. We had the tree care people give the cherry tree an injection, but we decided it was time to let the apple tree go. I’ve mentioned the poor (albeit bountiful) crops it produced, but haven’t touched on the fact that most of the apples wound up being mulched by the lawnmower – which, thanks to the low-hanging branches, had further difficulty in maneuvering in that little section of grass. It was time to get rid of it.
And so they did, and in jig time, too. The tree was taken down and turned to wood chips in the space of less than an hour, and we called the shed people up to finally come out and complete the install right before Christmas (which they could do, just as long as there wasn’t any snow). They had no trouble getting past the cherry tree, and into the backyard, where we now have so much more space to store… well, a lot less stuff than we had back then, barely four months ago.
And the cherry tree still stands, on the verge of blossoming, no longer in the embrace of the apple tree that stood beside it, wrapping it in an embrace of branches, blossoms and buds. Only the stump remains, not even high enough to sit upon like with the legendary Giving Tree.
I don’t know if the cherry tree feels any sense of loss of its long time companion. But if it does, I think I understand it.
And as it looks to the sky, and continues to grow… so must I.