Book by book I go, dusting, cleaning, reading, examining, inhaling, arranging. A library is a strange, quiet joy. It is good fortune, and in these times, when ignorance is vaunted, heralded, and prized, it is a reminder that wisdom and sanity are still alive in the world.
And then when the rain stops, I put on even older clothes and go out and prune the fig tree, which, over the years, I have encouraged to be very wide. Last summer, when a man and his son were here painting the house, they ate their lunch at a picnic table under the tree. This time of year, the tree’s stout trunk and branches are covered with moss.
I don’t ask you to believe anything I say. But I do ask if you honestly believe yourself. I ask if you understand the winter work that begins in your roots and extends to the furthest tips of your bare branches.
Our eleven-year-old grandson greets me with a warm, spontaneous hug. Our four children speak to me with an easy familiarity. There is no gulf between us. They are the wise ones. I am the student. They are the teachers. And they are the students. And I am the teacher.
Having pruned entire orchards, I know what it is to be a student and a teacher. I know what it is to be in the company of the great ones too shy and perhaps too intelligent for words, and who speak and embrace in other ways.