I have this duo of pear trees. They were planted long before I ever decided to be here, so I can’t take credit for their existence. Nor can I begrudge the pecans and walnut trees that grow in the distance, even if they make walking barefooted a punishable offense. I eat their fruits raw, cracking open shells with my fingers and fishing out the meat with thick fingertips and trimmed nails.
When John died two years ago, they didn’t bloom that year. They always grew fruit twice, once in the spring, once in the fall, but that fall, nothing grew. I took it as symbolic, as death can be that way, triggering all sorts of meaning to something so meaningless except to those left behind. Death dominated my winter and my spring, by summer I began to seek the sun again and again, found me with a bag in hand, walking painfully barefooted in the grove, with the broken pecan shells where the squirrels have beaten me to the fruit.
Albert keeps most of the squirrel population from exploding. Today, I chased him off decapitating a fresh kill and earned myself a poacher label from him, no doubt. I’ve had the pleasure of finding several headless squirrels this week alone. All Albert, the lazy marmalade-colored street urchin handed to me, yowling and purring, at a grocery store. He spends his free time, camped in my lap and fluffing bare bits of skin with claws that remind me of his nature, frequently, in spite of the purring and freely accessible belly he likes to display as a lure.
The squirrels are his enemy for some unknown reason, and Gibbs, my wire-haired terrier rescue, feels much the same. Gibbs chases them impotently up a tree and barks, while, depending on the season, those furry beasts pelt him with pears and nuts until he gives up and pees on the trunk in the only way he has left of showing his ownership of this vast lawn.
Hampton watches lazily from the porch, unbothered by a single thing and generally belly up, legs spread in the shade, near the fan, where the air blows on his fur. He snores and chases things in his sleep – making soft barking noises far more fiercely than I’ve seen when he is awake. I can almost picture him as a southern gentleman, holding his iced tea with one hand, a paper fan in the other, dressed like Colonel Sanders, as all Americans did in the South, I once believed.
The pears I get from these trees aren’t anything special and nothing like the produce aisle can afford. They are small, crunchy and green. When they get to their ripest state, there is a red blush on the side that has seen the most sun. That’s when they are ready. They never get soft and two or three of them fit in my palm. I get my grocery sack, gather pears and nuts and go somewhere and climb a tree, barefooted and sit, looking over the lake, and watching one of my bee hives off in the distance. No doubt what fruit I have I can thank them for, and I do, by leaving them alone to do what they must to survive.
This place, sitting in this tree, is my heaven. I didn’t buy the land for its status. I didn’t buy the land for its zip code. I purchased it for its seclusion. I purchased it for this tree and those pear trees, and those pecan and walnut trees. I purchased it for its view. I purchased it because my little Jewish old lady, with her home-made cheese blintzes, charmed me when she said she’d like to have someone around that wasn’t afraid of heavy lifting.
I stuff myself with these unripened pears, my ass falling to sleep on a branch and sit in the dappled sunlight and snooze. I’m thankful that I am not hungry. I’m thankful that no one has power over me. I’m thankful for those brief moments of calm when the world falls away and my mind is silent. I’m thankful for time. Time to forgive John for dying. Time to forgive myself for missing him. Time to simply exist and wonder at the passing of time.
Those pears will continue to grow. Gibbs will continue to bark ineffectually. Albert will murder. Hampton will nap. Sasha and Sophie, ever the genteel southern ladies, will lazily observe from their perch, away from the bustle.
And I will sit in my tree, watch time pass and be grateful for my ghosts. Then I’ll jump down, recharged, and work on solving everything that is wrong with this world, because this one corner of it, is absolutely perfect. My pears may not be ripe, but still, they are perfect, also.
And no one can change that, or ever did.