Wednesday, January 19, 2011

prune, prune

When I've got nothing, I bring you pictures and poems.  However, today, I thought I might let you into some of the more banal aspects of my life in the canyon.  Chore number one: tree trimming.

eucalyptus with addictive, peely bark

This afternoon, the light was so beautiful that I decided to attack the lower branches of the eucalyptus trees to bring more of it to the deck and through the windows of the house. The sun arcs behind us as it goes to set in the west but in the winter, very little light gets through.  This winter sun is so precious, so cheering, it makes you want to save all of it.  Pruning eucalyptus is incredibly cathartic. Have you tried?  First of all, the bark peels off in huge sheets and curls up in brown ribbons, hanging by the tiniest thread. All you have to do is pull and the pieces fall to the ground revealing the smooth, naked trunk.  Leafy tufts sprout wherever the tree has been pruned previously, and it is these very tufts, milky blue-green,  that I've been after with my trusty Fiskar pruning stick.  Sometimes the branches were so thick that I'd fall over with the effort, once almost rolling into the chicken run, but most of the time, adopting the athletic stance (feet well apart, knees bent, weight over the hips) I was succesful (although entirely ridiculous, dressed as I am in jodpurs, a yellow and white checked shirt, a yellow puffy waistcoat, striped yellow, navy and pink socks, and my oldest blue Converse). But what I really want is one of those electric chain saws and a large, safe ladder.

if you look carefully, the acacia is starting to bloom

The amount of pleasure I derive from pruning scares me.

I fear I might be turning into my grandmother. She was most of the time an incredibly elegant and beautiful woman, except on those days when she'd decided to trim the trees.  She would get up super early and appear with a scarf wrapped around her head, sturdy plimsolls, pedal pushers with a crease down the front, one of grandfather's old shirts, tied at the waist, large black Persolls, cow-hide gardening gloves and a large saw in her hand.  After venturing out, she'd be gone for the entire day, so focused that she didn't even make it back for lunch. She was all resolute purpose, her eyes on the (tree) prize. We'd see signs of her in the swaying of the tree, or the sound of a branch cracking.  My mother and her brother and sister would watch from the window in the Norwegian summer house and mutter and fret and worry that too much was being cut.  It became a field sport. My grandfather would bring out the binoculars. More muttering. My father would suggest a beer for our viewing pleasure, and ask us, please, could we speak English.  For the children, it proved to be delicious too, because often she would hack off great branches of the morello cherry trees that grow everywhere on the little Norwegian island, so that we could feast without precarious climbing.  She'd come in at tea time, red-faced and satisfied, a dot of perspiration around her hairline, arms snagged by raspberry brambles, happy.

the (dying) fir trees on Horseshoe Canyon ridge

I stood on the wooden deck like the boy in the poem, but instead of flames, I see trees: two or three kinds of eucalyptus, olive, acacia, oak, a plum, the weed trees I don't know the name of, the pines on the Horseshoe Canyon ridge where the hawks have their nest.  I don't know how long this summery weather will last, but I hope for it again tomorrow and on Friday, so that I can split up my long days at my desk with the pleasures of pruning.   I've been giving the olive trees a meaningful stare. I think they know their number's up.

a still autumnal silver birch outside my office


LPC said...

I love pruning. Attacked my bamboo forest just the other day. It fought back.

Miss Whistle said...

Oh bamboo's the best. It's so cathartic!