May is the time of year when lilac blooms appear in the share.
To be fair, we did not grow these.
The four ancient trees which bear the flowers came with the house when my parents purchased it in the early 1970s. At that point the farm had been abandoned for nearly thirty years. Even at the time, the gnarled, twisting trunks were massive, coppicing out from what must have been the location of some original, planted stem, heaving the soil upward and out around them as they went, as if they were not so much growing as erupting from the earth.
Originally there were five, ensconcing the house at almost every turn. As a teenager, I removed the one that stood abaft the front porch. It's scent was lovely, pouring forth through the dining room window in May. But it had the misfortune of blocking the view to the northwest where the warm-season sunsets were an essential companion at the balustrade after a long day of work. Extracting the tree was a two day task even when I was young and full of energy. The roll of terrain left in its wake remains an object to be negotiated with the lawnmower even to this day.
“There is no fruit growing in the land that is of so many excellent uses...serving as well to make many dishes...and much more for their physical virtues.” John Parkinson, Paradisi in Sole Paradisus Terrestris, 1629
This winter we experienced a bit of paradise lost with just one sole quince fruit holding steadfast to our 'orchard terrestris'. It is with great heart ache that we had to say goodbye to all but one of our quince trees. Allow me a lover’s lament and with it a longer than usual newsletter article.
I was making the morning rounds, loppers in hand, lamenting the role of grim orchard reaper, but reminding myself that just as we try to give the plants in our ‘care’ a good life, so too can we give them a good send off to the composted beyond. Working close to the land with my hands, having experienced the death of family and friends, I thought I knew a thing or too about life and loss. So, I planted white clematis vine at the base of a few quince trees that took on a dancer’s pose in its tree tomb stillness. I took comfort in imagining the ways that snow white flowers will entwine and embrace the quince in its dance with decay. I took solace in noting that a dead tree will harbor more life in the form of insects, fungi, and avian friends during the decomposition process than it will when alive.