Fiction, thought, tragedy, love — how beautifully intertwined they are — as when a story is a poem running down your arms.
My Lemon Tree
I went out early this morning to water my lemon tree. This year, it is loaded with fruit. There is so much fruit that the lemons are small. Yet they are full of juice and have not been reluctant to ripen. I find this the most amazing thing.
There is a thick bed of dry leaves under the tree. I never rake them out, because I know the leaves are there for a reason. They are the tree’s way of preserving moisture and protecting its roots.
The leaves on the tree itself are a beautiful, shiny green. They are cool to the touch, even during the hot part of the day. There are so many of them that it is necessary to pry open the dense network of twigs and branches to look inside the tree.
I went out early this morning to water my lemon tree. The sun had just come up, but it was hidden behind some clouds. The atmosphere was cool and quiet. The insects were still asleep, the bees and ants. The birds had not yet visited.
How many lemons can one person eat? That is the question. Most people do not eat lemons at all. I could give them away, but I would rather not part with them. So I eat them and drink their juice. I start and end each day with a fresh lemon.
I went out early this morning to water my lemon tree. I felt terribly lonely. My lemon tree is a good, faithful friend, full of wisdom and understanding. But there are times when I long for more, times when I would love to hear a human voice.
A voice that cares. Is this foolish? Or selfish? Why should anyone care about me? I am so poor, and have so little to offer. For years now, my life has revolved around my lemon tree. I have no other real interests.
Other than living. Someday, I would like to try that. I used to think I was living, but that was long ago, when I used to think a lot of things. When it turned out that what I was thinking did not have much meaning, I stopped thinking altogether.
Not really, of course. It is hard to stop thinking. Try it sometime. The more you work at it, the louder your thinking becomes, until at last you are consumed by it. And then, without the least bit of warning, it stops. Of its own accord. Silence.
Why is that, I wonder? And the silence is so full. It is full of wordless possibility, tenderness, and grace. It is timeless. By this I mean that within the silence, time does not exist. Nothing waits, ends, or begins.
Until you are startled by the restless workings of your mind, and caught up again in solving some petty problem. And this is where your precious energy goes. I know, because I have spent most of my energy exactly that way.
The rest I spend eating lemons, or tending my garden, or watching the seasons change. Sometimes, I simply dig a hole. I love digging holes. Does that seem strange? Digging holes is a satisfying way to pass the time.
After I watered my lemon tree, I dug a hole. I made it big enough and deep enough to be a grave, just in case I collapsed from all the work. I know this does not make sense. I also know it does not have to, because I enjoyed myself immensely.
When I finished the hole, the sun was directly overhead. It smiled down upon me. The smell of the moist earth was fine. For a few minutes, I considered the possibility of living in the hole. Then I climbed out.
How does one climb out of a six-foot hole? By leaving steps. I am not stupid, only a little strange. When I was back above ground, I looked at what I had done. Then I picked and ate a lemon. I ate a lemon, and dropped the peel into the hole.
But I still felt lonely. So I ate another lemon and dropped another peel into the hole. Then I put the dirt back into the hole. When the hole was full, there was still dirt left over. I put this dirt on top of the other dirt. It really did look like a grave.
Finally, I was done. My lemon tree had been watered, I had dug a hole, and put the dirt back into the hole, and had eaten two wonderful lemons, and neatly disposed of the peels. I wondered how long it would take the soil to consume the peels.
A much shorter time than a departed loved one, I suppose, or a dog, or a raccoon, although these, too, might be considered loved ones. In fact, every living thing is a loved one. Well, almost every living thing.
I wonder. Does my lemon tree love me? Can a tree love a person? I know it is possible for a person to love a tree. But does it work the other way around? Or are there different kinds of love for different kinds of beings?
You see, I really do not want to be a lonely person. And yet I am a lonely person. I am very lonely. Why else would I talk so much about my lemon tree and about the holes I dig? A person who is not lonely would not spend his time this way.
If my lemon tree loves me, I would feel better. Shall I interpret its shiny leaves and ripe fruit as the love it feels for me, or should I interpret it as the love it feels for the sun and wind and rain, and the dark earth it is anchored in?
I wish she could talk. Or maybe she can, and does, but I am not able to understand. What a tragedy. How strange everything is. How very strange. It is a wonder that I am not jealous of the sun, and of the birds who light in her branches.
No Time to Cut My Hair, Author’s Press Series, 2009
Story 24 of 70 written in 90 days, 1,019 words, September 5, 2002
Categories: No Time to Cut My Hair