One of the great things about winter is the quiet and the time to do things you never get to do during seasons of growing. I go into hibernation. A book by my side and a cup of tea and some dried apple slices from our orchard are all I need for company.
All of a sudden it seems, there are more birds singing and some excited ones announce: the chipmunks are here! I go outside and find them: jumping over fences and darting into stone walls, the earth seems to slurp them inside to their hidden places.
Then I look around the hill. Everything is coming alive. There are leaves opening like parasols, so slowly. An orange newt moves slowly across the forest floor. A new bird arrives in the plum trees and shows me its little red hat, by tilting its head towards me as it flies close to me, as if to say, “Spring!” Another bird sits high up in a buartnut tree and sings five songs at once, so it sounds like it is five different birds, but surprise, only one who can sing its own opera!
Standing in the slope orchard I see a dark lumbering shape walk diagonally across the under grass, and I see this big old porcupine being. I don’t think he sees me as he walks right towards me, chewing the new grass and occasionally pausing to sniff the air. When he is about two feet away, I get nervous he will walk into me, and I move my feet a step back. He stops, startled for a moment, then walks in a different diagonal line towards the brook, all quills intact but ruffled up a bit, just in case.
Above our heads is a hawk who takes off after almost scoring a meadow vole. It is so close and so right above us that I tell my friend standing next to me that I think she is telling us something. She is saying, “Look around you brother. everything is coming alive, and you, too, are part of it.” We can see the bright stripe across her tail as she circles, again and again, higher and higher so her message will sink in.
There are so many dandelions today that it looks like someone planted just a little green grass amongst them for contrast. The apple blossoms and pear blossoms are everywhere, and you cannot help but smile and breathe it all in deeply. We are part of a very interesting world. Some of it is a little rough sometimes. And some of it is quite wonderful. When a friend comes to visit, whether on four legs or two wings or one stalk, sometimes I can be here to welcome her. Or is she welcoming me?
When we plant a fruit or nut tree and some berry bushes, we are affirming life. All of nature comes to see what we are doing. We are planting something to look forward to. For us, for the bees, for the little beings we cannot even see. These perennial food-giving plants will keep on giving to us and the world, sometimes for hundreds of years. Each spring and summer our new friends we have planted nod to us in the breeze. A few flowers fly off in our direction. A plum drops onto the soft grass below or plunks on our head to wake us up to the wonders around us.
David Fried is a writer and grower of fruit and nut trees and berry plants at Elmore Roots.