Our grapefruit tree unearthed itself on Earth Day. It appeared to have been nudged up from the ground, slowly, gently, as it tipped itself over onto my husband, who was crossing our little bridge at the time.

Rather than knock Brad over, the tree just sort of pushed him down onto the railings of the bridge.

“Hey!” he yelled. “I think a branch is falling.”

But from where I was standing I could see what had happened. The roots of our massive old tree just slipped up out of the mud, like gnarly little creatures with long arms birthing themselves from the earth, like Milton’s creation account and his “tawny lion pawing to get free.”

Lately I’ve gotten a little weird about being in the garden. I want to spend all my time there. I justify it by telling myself and anyone who cares at all that I am “taking a break,” or “thinking,’ and I usually am doing both of these things; but the truth is I just want to be outside, not thinking about Milton, or Humbert Humbert as compared to whoever, or especially not the perils of being a non-fiction writer in today’s brackish waters of non-fiction, where the truth is suspect and fact undefinable.

It may or may not have been my overzealous and obsessive watering habits that killed the tree. I hesitate to say this, because I know of at least two women–whom I love and are likely one of the few people to read this blog as a matter of fact–who loved that grapefruit tree. One of them is in Croatia and the other is in Marin County, but both of them have pulled the bright yellow globes from our tree that hung out over the tiny pond, and both of them have some love and respect for that old tree. So again, I am hesitant to accept the blame, but the truth is I outed myself anyway when Brad and I stood at the upended and torn-looking base of the tree, and the first words out of my mouth (after asking Brad twice if he was okay–seeing as how a tree had just fallen on him) were: “It just got too wet.” And then, “Oh my gosh. I killed the tree.”

It may or may not be true that Brad has been mentioning to me lately that I might want to cut back on the amount of time I spend spraying water on stuff while staring out into the sparkled, misty space before me. A better wife and a smarter woman would have listened to her husband who is–after all–a certified Master Gardener and knows a lot of stuff about gardens. And in truth I did make myself stop most days when I could have gone on and on, running water into the little creek I just built around the edge–the former edge of our former grapefruit tree, watching little diamonds dribble off the wet and rubbery banana palm leaves, and making the pond ripple and the frog leap and the cat sulk. It’s all good stuff.

But now our back yard Eco-system is all off. The frog looks cynical and suspicious. Hector refuses to cross the bridge. Where there once was deep green shade there is now flashbulb-bright light; the banana palm looks frightened of the sun (who as of late has been reminding me of a guest who shows up too soon for the party: you’re looking forward to their company at some point but you’re just not ready for them yet). The view out our back door is exceptionally tree-centric. I’m worried we won’t be able to see the moon from our bedroom window anymore.

I’m thinking about how much my presence influenced the balance of our back yard–which amounts to our little piece of the planet–and not in a good way.

I’m also starting to think about the possibilities. An orange tree would be nice. A lemon tree. A new view. Lots of dirt just waiting for stuff to go into it. A big stack of citrus wood to warm our house next winter.

Brad sawed off enough tree limbs to make a clearing across the bridge; branches that were far from my reach are now just above my head. When I stand in a certain spot it’s almost like I am inside the tree; everything looks different from inside.

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4 Responses to unearthed

  1. Dang, that was really good. Seriously. Please save me some of the last grapefruit.

    • jamiejbarker says:

      I know the grapefruit tree would be happy to offer up some of its last gasps to you. You may have loved that tree more than anyone, though–as is my way sometimes–I have discovered, now that the tree has fallen into shadow, I am more attached to it than I realized.

  2. Melody says:

    Wow, I’m so glad that on a whim I checked your blog again (since it hasn’t been updated in so long). I really enjoyed this reflection…your writing has gained a richness and depth that satisfies. I have been into reading nature writing/reflection lately(Carl Safina is my fav) and this fits right in. More please!

  3. jamiejbarker says:

    No need for whims.Follow me, Mel, as I have followed you. 🙂

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