Monday, March 2, 2009

Planting Trees

Yesterday I did not turn my computer on for the first time in I don’t know how long. I have worked every weekend for the past month and this weekend I decided not to work. I didn’t even check email. Where was I? In the garden planting trees.

In the early 1970s, my parents took me to France, to a little town outside Paris called Maule (which I may have misspelled). My cousins Joseph and Yael had a country place of about 3 acres in Maule (they had an apartment in Paris). They were Holocaust survivors. Joseph (who spent 18 months in Auschwitz at the end of the war) gave us a tour of his orchard at Maule. It was his pride and joy. He had taught himself how to propagate and graft fruit trees. I was a surly teenager at the time and didn’t appreciate the orchard, although, to my credit, I did sit under one of his prune trees and write in my journal. I remember that Yael asked my parents how much land they owned in the U.S. We lived in the suburbs, so we had about a half-acre yard. When they told her this, Yael asked, “What trees do you grow?” She was astounded to learn that we had no fruit trees and very few trees at all on the property. “What do you use it for then?” she asked, bewildered.

As an adult, I have become a planter of trees and Yael’s question stays with me. I can’t imagine a home without trees in the yard. Many trees. Especially fruit trees. Our new home has two mature apple trees that did not bear fruit this past summer, one pear tree that did bear fruit but we don’t eat pears much, and one plum tree that bore heaps of plums that we enjoyed for weeks and gave away in bunches. I hope that by feeding the apple trees, I can coax them to produce this coming summer. The plum is in full bloom right now with breathtaking white blossoms.

Yesterday I hit the bare root sale at the local nursery. And there’s no sales tax on food plants! Even though it was pouring rain, I planted three cherry trees and two apricots. I also planted three blueberry bushes and two tiny wisteria vines. I got absolutely soaked and covered in mud and had more fun than I’ve had since the Inaugural Ball. Right now, as I dash this off, in order to say that I blogged this week, I am watching the quail, with their spiky topknot, skitter back and forth across the street as they dodge the raindrops. The neighbor’s ornamental cherry blooms pink near two large birches and several gracefully scraggy Live Oaks bedecked with lichens. My spindly young chocolate birch, that I planted outside my office window in the fall, sways slightly in the breeze. I can’t wait to see what my birch looks like when it leafs out.

Yael passed into spirit several years ago, an old woman, well into her 90s. I still think of her often. I named my daughter after her. Look at what trees we grow, Yael. Look at what trees.


terena said...

We have a Magnolia tree in our yard, planted because my husband is from Louisiana and needed a bit of home in his life. When it started to bloom the following year, the blossoms were as big as volley balls and glimmered white. We have a special relationship with this tree because we planted it ourselves and as it thrives, so do we.

Amy at Woza Books said...

I almost bought a magnolia. They are truly breathtaking. My neighbor has one so I get to commune with his. It would be excessive for me to plant one since the house came with 5 dogwoods. But to plant a tree oneself, and then enjoy it, now that's in incomparable pleasure.