In a forgotten back corner of the yard there is an apricot tree. It’s old and abandoned, desperate for a good prune. Any harvest is eaten by local birds. During winter bare bones of branches reached up into the grey sky. All winter I walked past it on my way to the compost heap. Unseen. Essentially nothing in my view of the yard. Until today, when I looked up from my boots in the muddy grass and noticed the sprinkling of blossom on the branches. New green growth is budding from old battered wood, and from the base an army of thin new green branches are climbing towards the sun.
This tree was planted by the original owner of this house (I am just a temporary renter for a few months). She is now only an imperfect image on faded photographic paper, alive only in the memories of her family. But the tree is still there, doing what it is supposed to do – flower, fruit, fade, flower, fruit, fade. Unless someone intervenes to cut it down, or we get a particularly nasty storm, it will continue this cycle until too old to renew itself in spring and it returns to nothingness – its atoms “scattered in soil and in air.”
I can’t take credit for the above sentence. I stumbled on it while exploring some of the articles in the “Nothingness” issue of Nautilus. The words are from the conclusion of an article by Alan Lightman (you can read it here):
“What I feel and I know is that I am here now, at this moment in the grand sweep of time….Even though I understand that someday my atoms will be scattered in soil and in air, that I will no longer exist, that I will join some kind of Nothingness, I am alive now. I am feeling this moment. I can see my hand on my writing desk. I can feel the warmth of the sun through the window. And looking out, I can see the pine-needled path that goes down to the sea. Now.”
The conversation about joining some kind of future nothingness can be saved for another day. I know the blossoms I photographed will blow away in the next strong wind. I know the old branches were once thin new and green. But today, here in my now, this old tree is an anchor to a point of beauty in the grand sweep of time.