Jenna is in the kitchen of her shop when I show up. Her stove is a city of pots, her counter a suburbia of jelly jars and lids. In one gargantuan pot a sweet thick soup simmers–blackberries from her garden laced with honey from her hives. She shows me all the simple tricks of canning blackberry jam, while our talk fills the room, hands busy at the stove, the sink, and easy laughter ladled into the moment.
Renee is with me, and she entertains herself easily with the toys that belong to Jenna’s daughter, who is in second grade and at school. From the kitchen window she watches their ducks waddle out of the forest, on their little path, single file to their duckhouse. Jenna takes us outside and shows us the brooding Momma duck. “It takes 28 days,” she says, “and today is day 28.” Already there’s been a premature hatch (and subsequent burial) from one of the orbs warmed now by the dusky golden momma duck, who curls her head contentedly back over herself, lost in momma duck thoughts, perhaps, or maybe just waiting and waiting. Jenna promises ducklings to us, if all goes well, and Renee’s eyes become wonder-filled at the idea of ducklings that are hers.
We meander back into the house, single file, and make hummus sandwiches, complete with avocado– and fresh basil leaves and tomato slices from Jenna’s garden. I take the short walk to the garden to pick the leaves and tomato, and I marvel at the place they’ve created: rows of asparagus, blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, tomatoes, cabbage, more than I ha…and up on the hill, an orchard of blueberries. It is a place woven with love.
Later, in the gray of evening, Andrew and I walk along Rock Creek. I am tired, and thoughtful, and so while he walks further up the road, I rock hop over to the other side of the creek where I can sit on an immense bench of rock and observe the pinkish glow of the sunset that is reflected by a cloud’s sleight of hand into this otherwise shadowy place. The hemlock trees are thinning along the banks here, and that means they are dying, which seems to be what will happen to most, if not all, of the hemlock trees here. I think of my aunt, who is also thinning, and I imagine blessings of pink light written on the mirror of the creek, I imagine the spirits of the trees, I imagine the trees dead, I imagine them huge and living, and I know that it doesn’t matter what I do, the trees will die, the landscape will shift, and change into something else, and I will too, because I love the hemlocks. I know their bark and their needles and the patterns their branches make against the pink of an ending day, or the way they filter light, comb it all up for themselves, so that underneath their limbs the ground is a smooth bed. I know the way their buds taste in Spring, and the shape of their round nubbed cones. And when they are gone, some part of me will be hollow and sore, like the bed in the mouth where the tooth once was, and my tongue will fall into the hole, again and again, tasting the slight tang of blood, tangling up my words, and my voice will tumble and rattle out of my mouth, trying to find the song that is forgotten, a song of green lace and feathered light that was mine, a part of me.
O trees, I have loved you.