We live in an old house, in a neighborhood that was once part of an orchard. Like our neighbors, we have remnants of the orchard on our property, along with a magnificent collection of very large crab apple trees. The trees are old enough to be inconvenient. They haven’t been genetically modified to produce tiny hard apples, or fruit that doesn’t fall. They make a mess, and they attract wasps. But unlike the modern varieties, they have a larger purpose in life than mere looks: they bear big, delicious fruit. The apples are a nuisance to pick, and I rarely have time to harvest them. We have more than one variety, but one tree, in particular, has fruit whose flavor explodes in your mouth, tart and fragrant. It’s an experience to remember in old age, like the smell of fall leaves when you are lying underneath them in a big pile; the odd feeling of emerging from the airport in the early morning on your first trip to Europe; or one kiss on one night.
The tree by our house is the largest crab apple I’ve ever seen. It must be close to eighty years old, and it is so tall that it hangs over the roof. During our recent construction, the builders and the landscape people wanted to cut it down. It’s too close to the house. They told me it wouldn’t live much longer, and I might as well do it now, while everything was dug up. The roots would get in the way of the foundation. The cedar shakes on the roof needed less shade. They almost convinced me. I’m allergic to wasps, and I don’t have time to deal with high maintenance anything.
But in the end, I couldn’t do it. We made our kitchen smaller.
Every year we watch with anticipation for the the moment when the trees all come into bloom. And most years we are disappointed. I can remember only one year when we were able to fully enjoy the trees in sunshine and birdsong for their entire bloom. Usually it rains and the rain washes all the blossoms away before we’ve had a chance to enjoy them. We joke about getting only three days a year.
I have been watching the weather earnestly this past week or so, because the blossoms were about to pop. They are so much more glorious in the sunshine. We had snow flakes here yesterday, and frost last night. I had a fire in the fireplace while I waited for my husband to return from Washington. The forecast is rain and clouds all next week.
But today is the day. The sun rose in full glory, with not one single cloud, and the trees are miraculously blooming. Everything sparkles, and the colors of early spring are young and rich. I can’t tell yet whether the frost did any damage, but the window of my little study is filled with the rosy blossoms of the grand tree. Today may be all we get, but it is worth the trouble.
In the end, I suppose, I’m not a very practical person. But we get this one day in spring.