I had to have some trees removed from my yard recently. Last weekend, in fact. Birch trees. They had a disease.
The birch trees had actually been sick for a long time, but I didn’t want to face it. Each year my gardener or the tree man would come out and cut a little bit more off the tops where the branches and trunks had died back. They were struggling to put out their leaves in spring, almost as if they had to think about it for awhile, wondering if they wanted to do it one more year. Should they continue to move onward?…or let life go.
I had to make the decision for them. It made me very sad.
This whole past year has been sad, really. It was a year ago today that I went to the San Joaquin Valley to drive the Fresno Blossom Trail with my friend. The panic over Coronavirus had already started, toilet paper was a hot commodity and Costco had none. Paper towels and napkins were missing, too, which I thought was weird. Why were people buying up paper goods? I couldn’t wrap my head around it. The Panic Buying of 2020. It was super-bizarre.
There was talk. Other countries were struggling with the virus and President Trump was calling it the “China Flu”, which irritated me. I thought it was a childish thing to say. My friend and I ate outside at a restaurant and discussed Coronavirus. She tried to educate me about how bad it really was and I did not want to face it. This wasn’t really going to happen, I told myself. But I had a deep sense that it was, and that it was going to be a very bad thing.
We drove out into the orchards on a beautiful day with fluffy, white clouds and breezes, admiring the almond trees in full bloom with bees flying all around. Peaches and nectarines, too, all dressed in their frilly, pink blossoms. It’s a sight to behold when the landscape is divided into large rectangles of color. Whites and pinks of all kinds, stretched out in rows.
Sometimes we saw bee boxes stacked up here and there next to the orchards with swarms of bees flowing back and forth, from flowers to hives. It’s fascinating, really, to sit inside your car and watch them.
I like bee boxes. Some are all white, while other stacks are of different colors, which makes them cheerful. I think bees and bee boxes are happy things.
Bees showed up in my photographs from that day as little black dots zooming over the trees. I thought about eliminating them, but decided not to. Why would you do that when the whole point of the photographs is to tell the story of the orchards? Bees buzzing and making blurry dots in the photographs are a reality. So they stayed.
Until now, I never did anything, really, with those photographs. I didn’t feel like it. I haven’t felt like doing anything at all during the Pandemic. For a whole year I have done not much other than garden. The last time I was in Death Valley was in March 2020 right before California shut down. I came home from my last journey to Death Valley and the Eastern Sierra Nevada right when the state closed. My local market was empty. The produce section had been cleaned out as had the meat and dairy sections. There were no eggs. Even Stouffer’s lasagna was missing from the freezer section. Don’t ask about toilet paper or Lysol.
Thankfully paper products weren’t an issue for me and I figured out how to deal with food. I stayed on my property and cleaned my house, over and over again. I worked in the garden and became addicted to the news, simply because I wanted to understand what was happening with Covid-19 and…what was going to happen to us all?
I have had to go through troubling and sad times in my life, just like everyone else. Some years are really great, while other years are filled with grief and sad things, bad people and situations. It’s part of the ebb and flow of life. But 2020 really, to me, was deeply disturbing for everyone on the planet. Not just me. I actually have had it relatively easy. Thankfully few people that I know have contracted Coronavirus. My gardener did, though. He said he thought he was going to die. He couldn’t breathe and had a fever that made him feel like he was on fire. He told his wife he didn’t think he was going to make it.
Hearing about the thousands upon thousands of people who have passed due to this horrible virus along with job losses, people having no food to eat, and losing their homes has taken its toll on me mentally and emotionally, but so has the political environment. I think that has depressed me almost more than Covid-19. The fighting and more fighting. Politicians lying and selling their souls for their careers. Backstabbing and more-than-usual-icky-behavior on the part of lawmakers and leaders. Lies and riots. I became physically sick to my stomach from the events of January 6. There was no reason for that ever to have happened.
Social media has become a toxic place that I don’t really like visiting any longer. Ten years ago I liked Facebook. It was fun. But it’s not fun anymore. I have an account with very few friends. I deactivate my Instagram constantly, even though there are artists and photographers whose work I like to look at. The world has become a very divided and ugly place with angry people. It depresses me, and there really is nothing I can do about any of it except to do my part with staying home, wearing a mask when I do go out and to try to not listen to the news.
When my trees were taken out last weekend, it made me feel badly. I knew that the trees knew that they had to go, but that didn’t make it any better. It was a death from a virus that is not controllable and it’s killing trees in Southern California. I still have two more that need to go, but I’m waiting to see if they send out any leaves.
A few days after the trees were removed, I decided to take a drive. I had to. I needed some way to get myself out of the depressed state I had been in for months on end. I headed up to the San Joaquin Valley for just one day, alone in my car, knowing I would encounter no person. Just trees. I needed to go back out to the orchards to see the blossoms and bee boxes. I knew they would make me feel better.
And they did.