My mother-in-law Nancy planted the orchard in 1982, and she has tended to it for all these years, slowing down only recently. (She is, after all, ninety-three years old; that’s her above in the 1990s.) This year, heat and drought have taken a toll on the trees, and some of the macadamias are looking pretty scraggly, not yielding enough nuts to justify the water they use. Today Nancy, Monte, and our friend Michael embarked upon a walk-through to discuss pruning, fencing, fertilizing, which trees would be cut down, and whether new things might be planted. “Everything changes,” says Nancy, who is open to ideas and not particularly sentimental. “This has all been an adventure…thirty-six years of fun.”
I have lived in a house above the orchard for the last twenty-five years or so, and I know it and love it from that somewhat removed perspective, but today I went out with our trio of experts for a closer look. I sat on the ground, idly picking up fallen nuts, and listened. It was interesting, as it always is when people with knowledge and enthusiasm discuss a subject.
And it occurred to me that this was yet another outcome of the recovery process for me: a new attention to the world, even the world that has been in front of me all along, a newfound capacity to stop hurrying along to the next event, to notice details, to pursue a thought through to the questions it prompts and the questions to which the questions lead.
I’ve been walking a lot more, often solo, but lately with my new friend Kappy. It’s amazing to have a friend who didn’t even know me before the surgery, and who accepts me as I am right now. “How would you have been different?” she once asked.
It’s a hard question to answer, because not all of my changes are visible. Monte says I was more “intense” before, whatever that means, i.e., more energetic, more wound up, edgier…not all of them good qualities. I do know that I am slower now and at times surprisingly wobbly. I pause intermittently in the course of the day for a brief time-out, calling it meditation, but it’s really just a few minutes of retreating and sitting still. It fascinates me that I was never able to do that before. I think I am more patient now. I definitely perceive and appreciate the blessings more readily and will never take anything for granted. Appearance-wise, I’m very thin, and my hair is silver-gray. (Dying my hair would seem absurd.) A lot of recovery is not so much about symptoms ceasing as it is about getting used to new ways of feeling.
This week, Kappy and I walked among the broken stones of an old seawall, like a couple of explorers amidst the ruins of an ancient civilization. And we sat beside a creek in the shade of the oaks, talking and pondering, wondering about the consciousness of trees, and I was filled with gratitude to be having such a day after I thought all such days were over for me. A yellow butterfly fluttered by.