Thursday, June 17, 2010


I sometimes get on a kick. This kick may last awhile. For example, I like to eat the same foods often. If you've known me for more than say, five minutes, you know I'm obsessed with coffee and protein bars. My current protein bar "kick" is peanut butter flavored ones with lots of protein. It's almost like the two dimensional food mentioned in Microserfs. If you haven't read that book, it's an older one but full of great wisdom and a discussion of a fat skinny guy.

I've been on a kick lately about my yard. Just so you know, I'm substituting the word "kick" for "obsession". It just sounds happier and more energetic. Such an ugly word, so misunderstood. Don't people know we have ocd for a reason? But I digress. Ahem. My yard, yes. Since this Spring, I've been slowly putting in a small orchard. Five years ago when I bought my house, I planted an apple tree. It lived and I was happy. Some of my happiest memories are of orchards and fruit trees and fresh air and, well, apple pies, apple sauce and apple butter. And apples. There was an apple tree by the side of our half mile driveway when I lived up Roger's Gulch in Dayton. Those green summer apples tasted so tangy and bright and I always ate too many of them and ended up paying for it later. I eat apples almost every day of my life. And protein bars and coffee. But in those days, it was all apples and the strawberry fields that grew wild on our property.

In February of 2008, my great uncle Vernon Marll died. He was pretty old- in his late 80's. I was lucky to spend the end of his life with him. It was a beautiful thing for me, to be able to read to him from the bible that he loved so much and to see that spark in his eyes even when he couldn't speak. He was such a good, kind, gentle man. I loved him so much. Everyone did, so I can't claim some unique connection because he wasn't just my uncle. The whole town and county showed up at his funeral- there was standing room only and people filed out the door. He had thousands of acres of farmland and was a county commissioner for 20 years and served as the head of commissioners for Washington State for a term or two. And he was a deacon in our family church. The same church that has a lighted cross behind the pulpit in his mother's honor. Even to this day, nobody sits in Uncle Vernon's seat. The church was heartbroken when he died. So was my grandpa, his best friend the pastor, the town and so was I. He gave me my first and only bible and inscribed it for me.

Uncle Vernon had an orchard, about 12 acres worth. He supplied our family and many others for years as an act of service and love to his fellow man. We would can his applesauce every year and make pies and just eat them- yellow and red delicious apples, apricots, and some peaches. When he died, I tried to buy the property, but just couldn't.

All of this brings me back to Spring. I sort of coerced Luke into helping me plant another apple tree in the back yard. He seemed to like the idea of more fruit trees. I'd like to add a cherry tree next year. I think about it. My grandpa died last September at the age of 93. Lately, to this, I've added a pear and a dwarf plum. And today, I added a red delicious tree. Can't help it. My Aunt Dorothy was the executor of his will and she asked me if there was anything I wanted of his. Though I am not religious, I asked for one of his bibles. A few paintings and most important to me, one of his orchard work shirts.

I stuck that shirt on this evening. It has plaid and red and pearl snaps and a western feel that's been worn over the years for it's intended use. I feel happy when I wear it, and as though I have something I can live up to; some work to carry on. Work that is fitting and proper and in my genes. Perhaps one of the things that is true about me is that I was made to make things grow. I know plants that are useful and some that are beautiful and they are all welcome in my little corner of the earth.

I had had every intention of just mowing the lawn. We're having a little get-together on Saturday (note to self: think about planting a vineyard). I want the lawn to look nice for my guests. The damn mower sits and mocks me from the shed. I wanted to go out and touch it, plug it in, and fire it up. Nope. I went to Lowes and bought some gardening stuff, planting a crepe myrtle, some boxwoods and a rhododendron. Then I weeded my garden and sprayed for insects and generally made sure that all was well and everything was growing the way it should. There is something very satisfying to me about a well-tended garden and a well-ordered back yard, even when it's overgrown with a little grass. The lifeless mower sat sullen in a dark corner of the yard while I messed around with weed fabric and mulch.

This is one obsession that I hope doesn't pass. I have harvested lots of apricots from an existing tree in the side yard and the tomatoes are starting to come in. Soon, we'll have peas and carrots and beats and cucumbers and I will forget all about protein bars and two dimensional foods in favor of whatever I can dig out of the earth that day. And you know what? This gives me a great feeling of peace.

For you, Uncle Vernon, wherever you are.

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