Sunday, June 16, 2013

All Survivors

Green leaves and growing things surround the little house, cascade across LaRhune, soft leaves filling in the oaks, eagle ferns covering the bare bones of the mountain. So much to love in summertime, life bursts out of every crevice. I try to be impartial, but I have my favorites.

Many admire the vast and elegant gardens of writer Edmond Rostand, preserved in the Villa Arnaga in Cambo-les-Bains, not far from here.  And the magnificent hanging baskets in Saint Jean de Luz, the public gardens in San Sebastian overflowing with glorious color.  But I give my heart to the wounded, the unlikely, the persistent, the survivors.

I sit beneath the spreading branches of the red oak in a favorite spot behind the house I call Angel's Rest, looking out and down across the land to LaRhune. Young cherry trees have invaded the area, new this year but at least a foot tall already.  Where did they come from?  I finally remember sitting in Angel's Rest last summer, eating a basketful of cold cherries with my daughter, sending the pits flying  from between thumb and forefinger as far as we could.  Unlikely, impossible, unheard of, but dozens of them rooted and grew into a small, brave forest of rounded, yellow-flushed leaves. I love them best.

But not only the cherries.  I also love the pine trees that shot up from where I dumped the pine-cone wreaths we made for the holidays; the little oak I uncovered when I cut back a thicket of blackberry vines, bent to the ground, never to rise again they told me, yet today straight and strong and taller than the house. I rejoice in the forsythia trunk someone gave me for a tomato stake, that, once pounded into the ground, grew roots and leaves and flowers; the chestnut tree growing from a nut that must have slipped into the middle of the dry stone wall; the 200-year-old oak tree above the house, its trunk rotted so much I can crawl inside but it branches as full of leaves this year as ever; the tadpoles born in a temporary pond made when rainwater filled my tire treads, they needed rescue as the water evaporated; the squirrel missing an eye that eats from my bird-feeder in the rain, her tail looped up to shelter her head like an umbrella.

These are hard days on mother earth. Yes, the chestnut tree will one day bring down my wall, the oak may fall and take out the hillside, the squirrel will never make it though the winter.  But does it matter?  They have seized the day, they sing in the sunshine.  Hurt, unwanted, untended, forgotten, they have grown in splendor and I love them best. Survivors.  We are all survivors.