Beginning where we are – by Terry

Already we’ve been a month with these trees. And, already we feel as if we know so much more about them. We’ve mused about how over time we will have our favourites, those that gives us something beautiful over and over again. And maybe there are some we’ll love just because we see how hard they try, even if they’re not as flash as some others. Still, it’s been just one little, wet, cold month and we know that what we’ve learned is but a tiny fraction of what we’ve got to learn. And we know that this learning will never end.

We have come into this adventure with scant knowledge and experience of how to work with an orchard. We’ve got lots of other things behind us and going for us that will help us and we’re all confident that our mix of skills and perspectives will not be wasted here. Nevertheless, we’re still starting pretty much from scratch, and almost ignorance. So, how do we even begin?

At the moment these trees have no leaves or fruit. They’re having a rest. The time we’re with them, we’re pruning them, tidying them up, freeing them up, making space for air and sunlight so that they can flourish when it’s their time to shine (and that time’s not far away!). Pruning is a repetitive job. Day by day we work along rows of trees (at the moment peaches and nectarines). At the end of the day we finish somewhere along a row, hang a brightly coloured bag on a branch so that we can find our spot in the morning. Everyday, we begin again. We see the branches and buds in our sleep and even in waking moments when we close our eyes.

Every day we see the trees a bit more clearly. We’ve become less awkward in their company. When we touch them, it seems less and less like butchery and more like care. I love how the word, ‘intimate’ has a couple of meanings that in some contexts seem unrelated and different. But then, when you look again, it’s clear that they’re not that different at all. To be intimate is to have a close and profound relationship with something. And, to intimate is to pass on knowledge. Familiarity does not breed contempt (as that cynical saying goes) but rather fosters intimacy and seeds knowledge. Somehow, these trees are getting into us. We’re learning.

So it is with this entire adventure. Just as we begin again every morning, tree by tree, row by row, we’re also following on from season upon season, decade after decade of time with these trees. Merv and Katie and Hugh and Ant are showing us the places to start, how to get going and, the ways to stay with these trees.

We’re not really starting from scratch. We start where they hung the bag.

Everyday, we begin where we are.