These were the only flowers not destroyed by the ogre. (Fortunately, ogres are afraid of bees!)

For the past half dozen months or so, an ogre has been camping out in my backyard orchard.

Without so much as a “how-d’ya-do,” and certainly without an invitation, he moved in and began wreaking havoc:  breaking branches off trees and strewing them across the walking paths; digging holes for me to stumble in as I stroll barefoot with my morning coffee; and trampling just about every flowering plant in the vicinity.

In early May, I spotted him up one of the apple trees, calmly devouring the blossoms.  It seems no accident that those trees were unable to produce fruit this year.

My friends are terrified to visit, and even more afraid to bring their children, lest they be spirited away like changelings, never to be seen again.

Since his arrival, I’ve been shooting him many a dirty look, but the nasty thing just cackles with laughter in a most discourteous manner and carries on with his destructive behaviour, seemingly intent on ruining my life.

For months, I have despaired, and even considered moving on to another locale far beyond the ogre’s reach, but quite suddenly, I find I’ve become not only older, but wiser.

This morning, directly after throwing back a fortifying cup of organic joe, I marched myself out to the back yard, where I discovered Mr O. hunched over the back steps, earnestly stripping the paint from off my back door.

“Ahem!” I said, loudly.

The ogre paid me no mind, forcing more vehement interruption.

“EXCUSE ME!” I shouted.

He ceased his assiduous peeling, and without any discernible alteration to his hunched posture, turned a malicious eye in my direction.

“Thank you,” I said civilly.  “Now, there are a few things I’d like to discuss with you … or to say to you, if you choose to remain so resolutely silent.”

The ogre narrowed his eyes and wrinkled his nose slightly at this, but otherwise made no response.

“First of all,” I stated firmly, “I want to say that I know this isn’t personal.  Destroying property, creating confusion and alarm, inciting fear and anxiety — that’s just what ogres do.”

His face was an impassive mask, but his eyes burned into mine in a gaze straight out of Edgar Allan Poe.  I continued, confident that I had his full attention.

“Furthermore, I want to thank you for your visit:  it hasn’t been easy, but I’ve learned a great deal, and you’re welcome to stay as long as you need.  I know I can trust you to move on when the time is right.”

At this, the ogre looked startled, as if I’d asked him to dance a fandango when he’d come prepared to do only the foxtrot.  His eyes widened further as I took a step toward him, coming within range of his less than fragrant breath.

“You have something for me,” I said quietly.  “May I please have it?”

Just for an instant, a cunning smirk leapt onto his face, but the ogre hid it quickly behind a smile that oozed hospitable chagrin:  he turned out the pockets of his filthy trousers, showing them to be empty.  With an apologetic shrug, he began to shuffle backward, preparing to end our conversation.

“No!” I said with a firmness of tone to which the ogre was obviously unaccustomed.  He raised his grizzled visage to me and paused.

“Please, may I have it?” I said again.  “I’m only asking for what’s right and fair.”

This must have touched the creature in some secret reservoir of compassion,  hidden within his breast, for he slipped his greasy hand into a small pocket in the front of his vest.  After a moment, he pulled it out again, his fingers loosely closed around an object.  Looking full into my eyes, he opened his hand and held it out toward me.

There, nestled in his palm, was a dark, dusty orb.

My surprise and disappointment must have been evident, for he picked the orb off his palm with the fingers of his other hand, and raising it to his lips, blew on it lightly before rubbing it on his sleeve.  Once again, he held it out to me, this time grasped between his thumb and index finger.

There poised between his fingers was a large black pearl of such remarkable beauty that my body drew in a sudden breath.

And reflected in the liquid surface of the pearl was my own image.  But I could see more … so much more.

I registered in an instant that the drama of my everyday existence was simply that:  a piece of theatre created by my ego for its own entertainment.  That my frantic competition with those around me for status and possessions was akin to a temper tantrum thrown by a petulant child. That my life in the orchard was designed to be an ongoing cavalcade ping-ponging between anguish and bliss, and that the ogre himself was responsible for giving it meaning:  his destruction ensured I felt the pain and anger of loss only because I had something in life I deeply loved and hated to lose.

I raised my eyes from the ebony luminescence of the pearl to find the ogre studying me.  Although I had looked him in the face many times, I had never really seen his eyes before:  they were a hypnotic shade of deep sea blue, and as I returned his penetrating gaze, I recognized that they were filled with love.

It seemed an epiphany to realize that to be shielded from pain was to spend a lifetime shrouded from life itself.  And that not just the pearl, but the pain itself comprised the ogre’s gift.

And this I know with certainty.  Next year, the orchard will bloom again.  The trees will have replaced their broken branches, and even the flowers will be manifesting a miraculous amnesia regarding ever having been trampled at all.  Everything will be the same, yet everything will be different.  For the ogre will be there, not as an intruder, but as a welcome guest.  I will stroll through the trees in the moonlight, and smile to see him lolling on the grass beneath the low-hanging boughs.  He may even chuckle as he regards my serene composure, and aim a cheery wave in my direction.

As for me, I will be in my orchard, exactly where I need to be, calmly and joyfully experiencing every moment of a life now gratefully shared with the ogre.  Pandemonium will reign, but a life will be lived.