On this day one year ago, thinking myself very resourceful, I felled the massive, perpetually dying elm tree in my front yard. It took weeks to break the rounds into free firewood, garden plinths, and green bin waste. Then it was gone.
What to do with the newly created void in the yard? Eager for more punishment, I thought: why not move the grapefruit tree there? It’s too close to the house already and will triangulate spatially with the tangerine by the sidewalk and the lime by the driveway. Our yard would have the stamp of design upon it, which it never has. Chez UpintheValley is forever improv, paid for with donkey toil, followed by second thoughts.
So I dug up the grapefruit tree. I cut the root ball down to the size of a large ottoman and rolled the whole thing across the yard, into a waiting hole.
Boy, was it ever unhappy. It shed leaves like the deathly sprig in Waiting for Godot. I told myself, give it a few months and it will put out fresh shoots. It knows I moved it for a reason.
The summer went by, no shoots. I nipped the branches, seeking proof of life. It wasn’t dead. But that’s all I could say for it. Fall passed, then winter. Nothing. Not a solitary green leaf. I watered it slavishly. I squatted in its arthritic shadow as confounded as Vladimir and Estragon.
How is it possible greenery can pop from asphalt in triple-digit heat, without a drop of moisture? How can Tapia palms erupt from weep holes in the sidewalk and refuse to be eradicated, while my grapefruit tree failed to thrive under my care and feeding?
Clearly, that spot in the yard bore a curse. Nothing could thrive there. In a fit of whiny pique, I decided to kill the tree. To teach nature a lesson, and to break the curse, I would offer a ritual sacrifice.
Then the rains came, forestalling my plans. A few warm days and this happened. Hundreds of flowers. Hundreds…each putting forth a bulb of grapefruit.
In my impatience, I assumed the branches would emerge first, and from the branches the flowering of new fruit. But it’s the other way around. Moving the tree made me feel like I was running things, which I wasn’t. I’m just the gardener. Spring makes cosmic insignificance sort of delightful.