There is a duck sitting, floating in the river under some leafy branches, so I can barely see him.
The camel stands up tall and watches us as we walk out from the rocky path. I am thirsty from my hike, but I do not think he is very thirsty. The camel is meant to go long distances over sand and over time with very few stops for water.
I have been getting up every day at the first hint of light. I have rows of cuttings to make, so we can have more very hardy berry bushes and flowering shrubs that Vermonters can grow in their yards. How else will the best undiscovered black currant varieties and the little-known basket willows be here for future generations?
I take my sharp pruners to my best and most vigorous plants and cut some stems back a little. I write with a wax pencil the variety name onto a plastic label and carry the bundle down to our cutting beds the crew has prepared with deep, rich weed-free earth. Kneeling into the soft mud, I take each cutting and plunge it gently but deeply into the earth, pushing further and further. Slowly, I ease it in until only one or two buds are showing above the ground. There are rows of them now after a springtime of doing this. I visit every few days to see if the natural weather with some sun and some rain, some cool and some warm, will be just what they needed to do what they were meant to do. Grow.
Some early summer days are so hot, but then the clouds come in and soften the effect. My friend Bruce used to play only one song on the piano as a boy, and this was the Joni Mitchell song “Both Sides Now”: “I’ve looked at clouds from both sides now, from up and down, and still somehow, it’s cloud illusions I recall, I really don’t know clouds, at all.” When working outside on a very hot day with the sun in my eyes, I am thrilled when the clouds do what they are meant to do, balance the heat and brightness with their shade, sending all kinds of contrasts and shadows about the earth.
Whether we are running for mayor, running for fitness, or running to help someone, we are inspired by our vision of how to make the world a little better. Some of us plant a garden. Some of us keep planting trees. Some of us call a friend to see how they are doing. Some volunteer to visit older people. I have a practice lately of not going to sleep until I write a poem or email to a few friends or family I know can use a kind word, hoping to bring a smile in the night or the morning.
One of my teachers said, “How does war start in the world? Someone on an island off the coast of Java yells at their child. How does peace begin in the world? Someone on a street near you wakes up and says to their kid or their partner, ‘It is so wonderful to be in the world with you.’” Sometimes we have the strength and the gift to be able to give over one good word to someone. Maybe this is what we are meant to do.
David Fried is a writer and grower of fruit and nut trees and berry plants at Elmore Roots.