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Our Harvest

The Autumn Equinox
Monday 22nd September
Today is the Autumnal Equinox, the centre of the Sun will spend a nearly equal amount of time above and below the horizon at every location on Earth and night and day will be of nearly the same length. Wikipedia
I imagine a wine glass beginning to ring as a finger is traced around the rim as the earth matures and the yellow of summer deepens, like a rich harmony, through orange, red and brown, towards the Harvest of the year.

I think of myself and I know that I am now an autumn-child.

Last Sunday, Liz and I were pottering around in her back garden when I noticed that the pear trees were in fruit. It made a lovely sight and as I tried to capture the moments of sunlight with my camera, Liz told me how the trees came to be planted.
In his last year, my father and mother came to terms with his approaching death, by celebrating life at every opportunity. My mother loved to travel and her compensation for having a hard childhood, was to take as many holidays as possible – even after Dad passed away, she would plan and book coach tours and sailings to as many places as possible – the more distant the location, the better.
Dad was very frail, but he had the stamina of a man that was used to a life of physical labour. He was also strong-willed enough to persuade his doctor that he was well and able to go on holiday to Italy with Christina. It was to be their last holiday.

My mother loved fruit, especially small sweet oranges and pears. She used to love the sort of pear that was so juicy, eating one would become extremely messy, so she kept a small kitchen knife in her bag when she went out on her jaunts, together with a good amount of tissues. She would walk along the river banks in Durham and ‘have a sit-down’ on a bench; there she would take out the pear and cut it into strips, which she would eat – her outdoor banquet was usually completed with a piece of chocolate. I think it would be fair to say that fruit and chocolate were her favourite foods.

Northern Italy is a magnet for people who love wine, cheese and pears and my mother and father had a lovely holiday. Although wine was not to her taste, she would have loved the cheeses and the fruit and when she returned to England, she brought back the ‘pips’ – the seeds of the pears she had eaten – and planted them in her garden.
The first contact Liz had with the trees that now stand, almost in a circle, between the flowers and bushes, was when Christina arrived, bearing the small shoots she had grown from the seeds she had wrapped in tissue and brought home.

It was a quiet and wonderful feeling to know that my mother had eaten the fruit from which the trees that surrounded us had been born.
The passage that follows is one of the most spiritual pieces of writing about trees I have ever read:
"In the growing season, life courses with ceaseless vigour through trees and shrubs; the impression of stillness on the outside belies the intense activity inside. Vast quantities of mineral-rich water flow upwards through the new wood, from the roots to the highest leaves. Sugar-rich sap descends through the phloem, from the leaves to all parts of the tree. All of this energy is expressed in the tree’s growth, in its flowers and fruit, in the seed which it produces in massive quantities. In effect, every tree or shrub is one of life’s richest energy banks, storing food in its tissues, eventually returning everything to the earth when it dies and decomposes, immeasurably enriching the soil in which it stood rooted all its life."  (Readers Digest - Field Guide to the Trees and Shrubs of Britain)
I think of my mother and father and the richness they gave me and those around them.
The trees in Liz’s back-garden were full of their love.

My friend and fellow blogger, Robin Easton is trying to save a whole mountain range. She and Robb Kloss have only a few days to get enough signatures to save the Ruahines Mountain range in the southeastern part of the North Island of New Zealand.
Celebrating the seasons of this wonderful planet is a joy – to celebrate by saving not just the nine trees my mother brought back from Italy, wrapped in tissue, but a whole mountain range would be a fine way of giving thanks to nature for being part of it.
The harvest of our years is measured by how much we put in, compared with how much we take out.
My father passed away in my mothers arms. My mother adored him – and that was his harvest.

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Lilly said... 22 September 2008 at 15:49

Oh Henry, that is so beautiful it made me cry.

The more I hear about Christina the more I like her zest for life. What beautiful memories. I couldn't imagine a better last holiday together than Italy. My favourite place. What a woman - pears and chocolate! How lucky we are to be blessed with wonderful parents.

If only trees could talk. What history they have that we are so unaware of most of the time.

You are the most gifted writer and your work just gets better with every post. Why isn't your name on a book?

I loved these two excerpts in particular - poetry.

Imagine a wine glass beginning to ring as a finger is traced around the rim as the earth matures and the yellow of summer deepens, like a rich harmony, through orange, red and brown, towards the Harvest of the year. I think of myself and I know that I am now an autumn-child.

The harvest of our years is measured by how much we put in, compared with how much we take out. My father passed away in my mothers arms. My mother adored him – and that was his harvest.

And your photos are great and love the header as well.

Bless you Henry (and Robin - its a wonderful thing she is doing with Robb).

Tony said... 22 September 2008 at 18:34

Very good post, indeed. You have an amazing talent! Hey check out this site, You'll like it a lot.

Anonymous said... 22 September 2008 at 22:35

Another beautiful post, henry! I realize by what you wrote that he came to terms with his death, but it still saddens me to read about it. Ah, and no better place to take a such vacation than Northern Italy. My favorite area in the whole wide world!!!

Eric S. said... 23 September 2008 at 00:09

A beautiful post, and so fitting for autumn equinox. Your pear trees look so healthy and full of life. I imagine that even though he came to terms with his own death, it was still very hard on them.

I imagine his strong will is part of what carried him along, for your mothers sake.

I love your story about your mother eating the pears, and then planting the seeds from the fruits she ate on their last holiday. The fact that you have those very trees in your garden is wonderful.

Anonymous said... 23 September 2008 at 00:47

Dear Lilly, Tamera and Eric ~ Thank you so much for your comments...with this particular post they mean so much to me. My mother and father (Christina and Harry) were the centre of my world and I will always miss them. I am not so amazingly spiritual that I do not, in the words of Dylan Thomas "Rage against the dying of the Light" - but I accept that life and death are a natural part of the world and the universe.

I miss them both so much - but I know I have been so lucky to have had such wonderful parents.



Anonymous said... 23 September 2008 at 08:53

It isn't often I get a lump in my throat when reading a blog Henry, I can assure you. I don't often read something so moving, intimate or well expressed. Your Mothers trees are special indeed, and I'd guess theirs were not the only seeds she nourished in her life.

Pear trees are really beautiful, their shape, their blossom, and the colour of the leaves as they change for autumn, and a fruit so delicate it's hard to find one ripe to perfection. Have you ever read any Richard Mabey? If you like to read about trees, he's your man. He wrote Naturecure, Flora Britannica and Beechcombings.

Anonymous said... 24 September 2008 at 06:40

The pear image certainly reminds me of harvest. I savor your candid perspectives and the earthiness of nostalgic reflections. As each person evolves, it is easier to realize lessons are avilable in everything.

Anonymous said... 25 September 2008 at 00:28

Oh henry, the layers of meaning and richness woven through this whole peace speak of Life, Love, Continuity, Nature, all the endearing and enduring things of our lives.

First, thank you for helping Robb and me by mentioning it here. I am deeply touched and grateful. Very much so.

Also the way you "see" and talk about trees, you know I relate more than I can express.

I love how the trees in Liz's yard were connected to your Mom the whole....lineage there is powerful. Trees and humans have that relationship if only humans wake up and see it...experience it.

I find it amazing to climb a tree and know that my father climbed that same tree and clung to it's branches, and that same tree will know others once I am long as we humans don't cut it down. It's like part of us is imprinted in the tree. Generation of humans imprinted in rings of bark. Phew that is a far reaching reality.

I also loved what you shared about your mom and her "banquets" well as how your father died in her arms. Such a poignant thing.

Your writing is incredible henry. It moves me to tears, beauty and love. It's healthy.

Hugs and love,

Unknown said... 25 September 2008 at 01:38

Dear Bird Liara and Robin (sounds like a pop group) - again, thank you for your comments. When I stood there, I was thinking how my mother had eaten the fruit from a tree and had taken the seeds from her mouth and planted them, like a midwife, in the ground. It brought on a feeling of totality and completeness and design.

Hi Bird, good to see you back. I don't know Richard Mabey ~ you see, I grew up with trees and climbed them and everything, but I never learned their names properly. Between 24 and 60 I was forging ahead with my career. At 60, something changed and I became more and more involved with the natural world. So I'm just a learner really ~ (tut tut) Liz, on the other hand, is very country-wise - so I keep getting her to remind me of their names.



Unknown said... 25 September 2008 at 10:42

I had to read this a few times before I commented because there is just such a lot in here. It is very beautifully written and there are so many things I love about the post. I sense it is a very special one for you....
I loved hearing about the fruit trees, I never thought of growing them from seed, what a legacy she leaves....but importantly they both have left a legacy of love in so many ways.
Through it all, I can feel how deeply you miss them, they both sound very wonderful people. ChrissyXX

Janet Gardner said... 26 September 2008 at 02:49

Hi Henry,
Thank you so much for your comments on my blog today. You bring me such happiness when I get them from you. This post brought a tear to my eye as I can remember my mother and fathers love for eachother. My father also knew he was dying and he left before my mom,who is pure Italian. Her parents came straight off the boat from Italy. So many similiarties in ours lives, yet we have never met. The Irony I feel of reading this is when my father was dying the song that reminds me of his passing is Forever Autumn by the Moody Blues, and here you write about trees, and losing your father. Thanks again for your writings that brings us inside your world, and for taking the time to visit mine.
Take Care,
Janet :)

Anonymous said... 16 October 2008 at 14:46

You put so much into your blogs. It amazes me.

Good job!

Ginae AKA Empath

Inspiration Alley said... 19 November 2008 at 08:43

A really moving, beautifully written post. The strength of your parents' characters, their love for each other and your love for them really shines through.

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