My peach tree is done for - that's the prognosis from the tree guy. Too many big years, too much strain, too many lost limbs (plus a new fungus) - it's gotta come down. A minor sorrow; still, I will mourn its passing. After an even greater loss for our family this past week, I dug this one up from ye old computer files to share. So this one's for you, Aunt Megan, with all of my love... thanks for always reading!
I have been bearing fruit for years, long before the lady’s hair turned white. I have housed countless families of birds and insects – the cicadas that come around from time to time leave behind their skeletal souvenirs. There are seasons that my blooms wither and die, parched by an early frost. But then the next season I burst forth with unchecked passion, my limbs barely able to contain the weight of my love. I am heavy again with child.
One year, I was so full that my limbs began to shear off; one of my main arteries, a branch as thick as the lady’s upper arm, buckled. Surely this is the end, I keened. But the lady, not so old yet, picked some of my fruit, unripe, so I would not fail. Then a man came, mending me with metal and twine and more hope than reality. Even as he was fixing me he shook his head, turned down his mouth. I should not have lived, but I did. Pure magic.
I have seen years of neglect and years of plenty. The seasons that have passed - with their accompanying sun and rain, high winds and bitter, clenching cold - have helped me grow, giving me strength and sustenance; even as they were trying to kill me, I bloomed and grew strong.
But the seasons have shrunk her; the lady grows old, withers. Each year she finds it harder to climb into me to help relieve me of my burden. Her face wrinkles like my unpicked fruit, until she can only pick from my bottom branches because she cannot lift her arms above her head. She grows soft spots, rotting on the ground, her hair grown whiter than my spring blossoms, unbearably bright
Then, the old lady comes no longer. For several seasons my fruit falls to the ground, rotting at my feet, untouched save for the squirrels that nibble at the bones of my flesh.
Now again there comes another lady. She is not young; she is not old. She hangs a wind chime on a hook on my middle branches, high enough that it catches the breezes, singing a forlorn and beautiful melody. In a few years my branch grows over the hook; I claim it as my own.
She has man-babies, three, who sometimes use me roughly, calling my trunk home base, climbing me even though they are too big and I am not big enough. Once again I bow under a tremendous weight – this time not my own.
But I do not mind. Because she picks my fruit and makes sure my branches are trimmed every year so I do not break. I am visited by the same man who had mended me long ago, his hair gone white too, and he hums along with my wind chime as he works.
And now one of her babies, the biggest, grown tall with the sun and seasons as well, complains as he helps her pick my fruit.
“I don’t even like peaches,” he says in a crackling voice, both high and low, his own distinct melody. He handles my babies roughly. She grasps his arm, not gently at all. Chastened, he softens his face, his touch.
“Maybe not. But I do,” she says, as she raises her arms to mine, the look on her plain face speaking of a love as ageless as the sun.
Megan Hines 1966-2021