Sunday, April 29, 2012

Breathing In

A couple weeks ago, Mr. W had to cut down one of the orange trees in our backyard that had been struggling for over a year. It was failing to produce leaves on a lot of its limbs; losing strips of its bark. Although it somehow managed to yield two oranges this spring (straight from its trunk), we knew it wasn't going to make a full recovery.

When he began to dig up the main stump, Mr. W discovered that the trunk was rotted through.

Apparently when he and Sweet Pete had re-landscaped the backyard many years ago, they accidentally buried the tree too deep. I didn't know this until Mr. W explained it, but trees have a transition area between their roots and trunk that is very fragile. If this root flare is buried or over-mulched, it will deprive the tree of oxygen and cause it to suffocate.

It made me think about what happens to people when too much gets piled up against us. When the dirt of work and life stress; emotional turmoil; loss; change; illness—all the things that can build up around us—come at once, we usually end up feeling rotten, too. We can't produce like we normally do. We can't breathe. We've got to cause our own personal earthquakes to shake away the soil and get the air back in our lungs.

I'm trying to do this now, as I have a nasty cold and haven't exactly been feeling rot-free.

For me, the way to re-oxygenate usually starts with getting fresh air. Letting the sun hit my root flare and the breeze dry up my dampened equilibrium.

Today Mr. W and I went on a nice hike near the Hollywood sign. Then I spent time looking for signs in my own backyard—signs of hope, new growth, promise of good things to come.

Here's what I found:

Little strawberries almost ready to be picked.  

The beginnings of our first crop of avocados on the tree we planted in autumn 2010. 

 Baby grapes. Not sure the varietal but very glad to see them in our yard.

A teeny artichoke hiding among the massive prehistoric-looking leaves of the plant.

 Boxwood basil - a new discovery for us this year. We planted small clumps of it,
along with several tomato varieties, where the old orange tree used to stand.

 This zucchini has probably already grown 10x the size it was when we first put it into the ground. 

Snap pea blooms popping up in between corn shoots along our back wall. 

I can only imagine what it will be like when we live in Santa Ynez one day and walking outside to get some air can include a quick stroll through the vineyard and a visit to the chicken coop. Those exhales are going to feel incredible. 


  1. I fear my dirt is accumulating at an alarming rate. Perhaps I just need a day in the sun...

    Thank you, this was a timely reminder.

  2. So well said, my friend. I feel like I have excessive dirt and mulch around me right now, too. I needed a reminder to remove it, even if only in my mind.

    And I love your garden. I can't wait to have my own one day.

  3. You're trying to make "root flare" into a dirty word, aren't you? Just admit it - a little suntanning in the nude really recharges the soul! hahaha.

  4. I feel like that artichoke is saying "FEED ME SEYMOUR". :-)

  5. Chantel - You not only need a day in the sun, you DESERVE one. Take care of yourself, sister!

    LesleyG - Visualizing shaking off that dirt might be a good place to start. Going for a run probably wouldn't hurt either. ;)

    Nilsa - I love you so much, my pervy MidWestern pal. :) :)

    Sizzle - That made me laugh out loud. I'm going to sing "Suddenly Seymour" now when I'm gardening.

  6. Laura - The metaphor practically wrote itself.

  7. You're lucky. Whenever I grow strawberries, Sydney gets to them before I do!

  8. Wow. this is pretty deep stuff! I never thought about how life relates to trees, dirt accumulation and oxygenation!!

  9. Well written! Yes, a great metaphor for life. I find that now that I've gotten rid of the excess dirt in my life, there is a constant gardening to ensure it doesn't pile up again. Yield: Constant blooms. Score.


Well, whatdya think?