It has been as hot as Hades here on Ontario’s South Coast this past week, and I have been dehydrating.

But just for variety, I’ve also been canning.  Freezing, I’ll leave for some future date when I’m not tempted to crawl inside that frosty space and curl up into a cool little ball!

You see, it is plum season chez moi, and the ancient tree in my backyard orchard, perhaps anticipating its own demise, has put out a bumper crop of dangling orbs of sweet delight.

And because it would seem to me a crime to allow this yield to rot, I’ve been delivering bags of  golden bounty to friends and neighbours, whilst attempting to preserve as much as possible for my own consumption during the fruitless winter months to come.

This action has a special significance this year, as I believe it will be the tree’s last summer.

My lovely plum is infected with an insidious disease called Black Knot: for those of you not arborially inclined, it’s caused by a fungus and is a bit like tree leprosy.  I had been keeping it at bay through annual applications of sulfur spray, but got busy last year, what with the thesis and all, and now it’s running rampant amongst the branches.

This is, after all, a very old tree, and I am told by those in the know on such matters that one should never allow a fruit tree to outstay its welcome.

However, this particular plum tree bears special fruit for me in terms of the memories it brings of my relocation here to the coast of Lake Erie.   But I must backtrack just a little …

Over a decade ago, I was living in a very pleasant apartment in Toronto, feeling that something was missing from my life.  At a gathering of friends, the question somehow arose as to what we each would do if we learned we had only six months to live  The answer came easily to me.

“I think I’d move to the country,” I said.  “I’d slow down and enjoy life more.  I’d drink my morning coffee looking out on a green field.  I’d start a garden.  I’d cook beautiful, healthy meals with fresh, colourful fruit and veg.  And I’d always savour a glass of wine while I was cooking.  When the day got long, I’d take a slow, silent walk in the moonlight.  And finally I’d sink into bed, knowing I was living the life I most wanted to live.”

“Yeah, ‘ I reflected.  “That’s what I’d do .”

Almost immediately, it was as if my friends had disappeared and I was alone in the room.  And then, my spiritual doppelganger, some wiser version of myself, sprang out from within my own frame, stood solidly in front of me, looking me squarely in the eye, and demanded, “So why do you have to be DYING to do that?”

It was an epiphanic moment.  I immediately took steps to bring that envisioned life into being, voraciously perusing real estate listings, and eventually touring an old two storey brick house in a small lakeside town.  My prospective home was very much in need of loving restoration, but it had decent bones, plus an interesting history.  And in the large backyard was an orchard … an ancient, overgrown orchard .. one that reminded me of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and fireflies and fairies.  I knew at once that the house was calling out to me to make it my own.

On the day the house was legally mine, I drove to the realtor’s office to pick up the key.  As I grasped it in eager hands and headed for the door, he called out to me:  “Make sure you go into the backyard, because that plum tree of yours is full of plums!”

I raced to the house and sprang into the back:  he was right!  The tree was heavy-laden with succulent golden-red plums, fairly dripping with them.  I gathered a basket full, and took them to rehearsal that night, where I practically demanded that my fellow cast members join me in the revelry of plum sweetness.  It seemed almost miraculous … that ambrosial fruit springing from the old tree in the ancient orchard of my neglected century home.

Now, over ten years later … ten years of morning coffee gazing at my orchard, and cool moonlit walks with canine companions … I’m poised to leave this place, whenever a buyer or a teaching position beckons.  And the tree’s life is coming to an end.  It seems fitting, but also sad in that poignant, circle of life kind of way.

So I honour my backyard companion this year by not wasting a single one of her children; by ensuring that all the fruit is enjoyed.

Adieu, sweet plum.  If neither one of us is here next summer, know that you will always have a special place in my heart.

And I’m saving a few of your seeds, my graceful beauty, in the hopes that some day soon, your yet unborn children will also delight the world each and every July with those glowing orbs of delight.

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