In April seed pods the size of black plums dangled from the bare branches of the jacaranda we had just planted in the heart of our garden. Would they drop eventually, we wondered? These dark ornaments were … well, ugly to our eyes. We worried too that — even though we’d purposely chosen a sapling with multiple trunks to create the effect of a copse instead of a lone tree – it might split. But what could we do now? Just trust in the nurseryman’s confidence in a tree’s capacity to heal itself and twice a week nurse it with buckets full of water, as precious in this drought as wine.
All spring we watched like new parents as lengthening days untied the knots of green nubs that formed on the jacaranda’s branches and unfurled feathery fronds. The seed pods hung there still, dusty black spades amidst the green froth. Would they ever drop? Should I prune them? But I don’t want to weed, rake, and trim nature right out of the garden. Sometimes when we try to beautify a landscape, we expunge wild processes we don’t understand. If I cut off the seed pods, would I cut off some vital service to the tree? A dozen websites and gardening books ignored my question but cautioned me not to expect blooms this first year. What cause for rejoicing then, like a baby’s first steps, when I noticed tiny buds in June. As if the jacaranda knew the myth of flowers blossoming on a magical fern deep in the Polish forest, a purple cloud bloomed to crown our garden. Yet even this halo could not hide the devil’s paws clutching last year’s dead limbs. Would they ever drop?
It is November now. With carapaces hard as glass, the pods hang there still, but I notice they have opened – just barely opened like a rotten oyster loathe to let go its pearls. The tree-given desire for life even in such tiny pips as a jacaranda’s seeds is enough to pry open the possessive lover’s door. The pods may never drop, but it seems the seeds have found their way to earth and (we may hope) rebirth.
Leaves on the spent canes of the
boysenberry vine crinkle and fade,
while congregations of Concord grapes
swell with purple sweetness.
Into the green globes hanging from the persimmon tree
an orange stain begins to creep.
Slowly the garden is bending towards autumn.
it surrenders its greenness willingly.
In a long, languid season
of praise for the light
it consents to the coming darkness.
May I join my voice to this
reach for candle and cup,
and trust in the secret gifts
the roots know
in the belly of the earth.
The leaves of the liquidamber tree flame into orange and red,
glowing in the hot light of Indian summer.
Even now a strong breeze can pull off
those that are ready to release their hold
or that the tree is prepared to relinquish.
Without pain or sorrow the leaf lets go
and floats into a current of air,
a wanderer now after a lifetime of vowed stability
with one tree in one place.
The new gypsy may know, but doesn’t care
that this grand adventure will end with a crumbling into mulch,
for the gift of the autumn wind is liberation,
and the songs of spring are just a sweet memory.
The bereft trees will stand naked
and this is why they never forget who they really are.
The annual stripping of all finery
reduces each to its pure form,
and in this integrity
they offer their bare branches to the long winter night.