An excavator appears at the hazelnut orchard down at the corner. It begins to push the orderly rows of nut trees down effortlessly shoving their abused bodies into great piles- a mass grave of sort. After some acreage of trees is leveled, the towering piles are lit on fire. The fires burn on into the night, great tepees of combustion throwing sparks and smoke into the sky visible from my kitchen windows. It takes about 10 days to burn the five acres of trees to ash.
It was a scene of mass destruction like a battlefield – wisps of smoke dotting the landscape when the fighting was finally completed, the troops in retreat, the dead removed. All that remains now are tractor tracks crisscrossed in a field of ashen mud.
In the leafy months, the five acres of hazelnut trees offered a dark, cool refuge. Beneath their crowns, the soil was swept clean like a pioneer cabin dirt floor. Thus the orchard was an ideal place to play in the heat of mid-day. My young son would ride his bike among the trees while I walked the dogs off-leash. I would play hide-and-go-seek with them. The dogs would experience a moment of panic when they noticed me missing and then gallop back to proudly sniff out my still form hiding behind the trunk of a tree. On moonlit nights the orchard was especially good for spooky walks, the deep shadows creating mysterious passages to explore.
We were trespassing of course. The property belonged to a farmer who later I was told had the trees removed as they were diseased and well beyond their prime production years. They were his to take whether the neighbors grieved or not.
I sigh. The trees in that orchard had been steadfast neighbors for going on 30 years of my residence in this house. I miss them just as I miss the once quiet roads and the woodlands that have been cut down for the vineyards that now cover the rolling hills in their place.
Change follows me like a shadow that blocks the sun. It comes and goes at will through a door with no lock. The fires of the orchard’s demise still burn in my memory. Sky now meets ground unfettered where the orchard once stood. The hills in the distance are oddly naked. I light a candle at my table to keep myself steady.
Authors note: It’s been a time of great change these last few years for all of us. Covid, climate change, social and political divides have all taken a toll. Then there are the changes we face in our everyday life How do we cope? I write, meditate, make art, listen to music, and light a candle every evening.