A series of winter storms has left us with complete and utter chaos in the garden. It is almost unrecognizable. I feel raw, exposed, and more than a little overwhelmed by the tasks ahead.
The main loss was a coyote brush tree, the largest specimen I have ever seen, which has been here since we moved in, over 15 years ago, and was close to 20 ft tall. Beautiful Cecile Brunner climbing roses were propped up by it, and grew over our porch picnic table with umbrella. It felt cozy and hidden, sitting under the roses, enveloped by the coyote brush. It rotted out from the inside, and was taken down by the wind and rain.
This happened a couple of days before Christmas, and the roses pulled at the lattice around our porch, threatening to rip everything down. The huge climbing roses kept some of the coyote brush up after a fashion, but the whole mess clobbered the princess tree and the herb spiral, narrowly missing the lemon tree.
Luckily I had gotten an awesome pruner only a day before in the mail (serendipity) and was able to start clipping away at the rosebush. I spent most of the day filling the huge compost bin, which had rotted quite a bit since we originally filled it.
It’s been pretty cool to see how I can pile the branches up, chop them up, cover them, and the pile gets smaller because there’s already some good composting going on in there.
There were also some downed yucca branches, which I later stripped and distributed along the paths.
Dave and a friend sawed down the rest of the tree and collected more of the immense rosebush from the porch.
It is sad to lose such a great rosebush. I know it’s an opportunity for light and new plantings, but right now it just feels like loss. I remember buying the bare-root roses from canned foods warehouse in SF, which is long gone.
The picnic table on the porch felt like such a protected nook. It was the scene of so many cozy dinners and gathering of friends. You couldn’t even see the umbrella anymore.
The coyote brush wrapped around the porch, shielding us from the condos that had gone up behind us. Hummingbirds and mourning doves perched in the thicket of branches. It felt like an old friend.
Last night I read a story in The Sun magazine called “The Burden Of Bearing Fruit” by Brenda Miller, who had lost a cherry tree that had kept her company for many years. She chronicles her relationship with this magnificent Ranier cherry tree, among other relationships in her life.
In April I could see the crown of my tree from blocks away as I drove home from work, and even after nine years the sight still gave me a flush of pride, an almost embarrassed satisfaction, as if the tree were welcoming me home with trumpets and banners.
I’m having a hard time letting go of what was. Reflecting on the notion of impermanence, I am dragged kicking and screaming towards acceptance. Recently I heard an analogy from my yoga teacher about how life was a river, moving faster and faster. She talked about how yoga helped us jump into the middle of the river instead of clinging to the sides. Right now I’m clinging, but will let you know when I can let go with both hands.
To garden is to confront impermanence every day. I can’t imagine what people go through who have to lose their land and their homes to war, poverty, or natural disaster. This post has been hard to write, to complete. It’s time to move on.