It has rained for several days. Everything is inundated, spongy and wet. It has been this way for months. My yard needed to be mowed in late October. Four months later it still needs it. The grass isn’t all that tall. It just isn’t all that neat.
With this as backsdrop, it’s difficult for me to be enthused about the looming spring. At least it was until this morning. Right outside my second-floor office is a large pear tree. For the first time this year, I can see fat buds at the tips of the branches.
Yes, that’s what they do. Fruit trees bloom in the spring. I used to take it for granted. Not anymore.
In the early nineties when I bought this old house, I had an elderly neighbor, George Russell. He was a character. He often rode his big balloon tire bicycle around the neighborhood. He had lots of stories about the area. He had lived here his whole life.
Mr. Russell told me how much he loved the pears that my tree makes. He also told me that he remembers getting them when he was just a kid. He had eaten them that long. It bears mentioning that he was in his mid-eighties when he told me this – twenty-something years ago.
The pears are especially good. They’re wonderful out of hand, as butters, tarts, jellies and wine.
Doing a little math, that means my tree was probably planted in the first or second decade of the twentieth century. The house was built around 1917. Stands to reason that the tree might have been planted about the same time. Of course, it’s impossible to know how old it was at transplant.
What I can tell you is that the tree continues to make an enormous crop of pears every year. I can also confirm that the pears are especially good. They’re wonderful out of hand, as butters, tarts, jellies and wine. Whatever thing you might conceive to do with them, they seem fit for it.
I have a deep affection for the tree. She has given so many people so much pleasure over her century of life. The birds and squirrels have also derived great satisfaction in her boughs.
Even so, life, all life, even that of a stalwart friend must come to an end. Her end is probably not far. This makes me very sad.
Last year, I had to brace her twin central leaders against splitting. This year I’ll have to make a few large cuts to reduce the weight of her long branches. Her trunk is hollowing. I’ll do everything possible, but I’ve lost enough souls close to me that I recognize the immutable signs.
I am not, however, resigned to absolute loss. Last year, I took cuttings to root. One has survived, green and strong. I will take others as soon as new growth presents itself.
If all goes to plan, I will help her live on through her children. I will give the rooted cuttings to friends and family. When the time comes, I will prepare the soil where she once was and plant her successor.
It is my hope that in three decades when the new friend is a healthy mature tree that a neighborhood kid will ride by on his or her bike, see me tending the descendant and ask for one of her pears. I’ll give it to them but not without a story about Mr. Russell.