June really liked stick-y things– a yard ringed with crabapples and roses.
She sent her husband down to the Cities to buy a particular tree she wanted. He dug the hole– and planted the wrong one. June was mad, so he dug it up again, but he didn’t get all of it, and so the second tree was planted in the roots of the first.
Now they’re two trees that look like one, at least this time of year, with branches bare, though if you know the story you can see how the bark varies from one intertwining limb to the next. In the spring the leaves and flowers are different colors. Both exist at once: the desire that led to the mistake that grew into the magical, never-existed-before-thing.
I spent a few summers digging choking lily of the valley out of the other perennials in my garden beds. It wasn’t weeding, it was full removal, disassembly, rebuild, as if I were taking apart and restoring a motor or a pocketwatch or a mistake in a piece of knitting.
But you never get it all out, of course. Life wants to keep going, and roots are fine as whiskers, and there is only so much time to give to clearing the earth of what came before.
I don’t know if I’m the tree, if my life’s the tree, if it has to be a metaphor at all. I do know that as a child I picked crabapples by the grocery bag-full, that my grandma cooked and juiced and canned them into butters and jellies and syrups, that I can still feel the puckering, drying quality inside my cheeks as I roamed through the tall grass of the orchard solo or with my sisters.
I don’t can jams, but I want to. I didn’t know June, but I met her today in the house she inhabited so fully, in the trees and the overgrown garden beds I am honored, and just a little scared to have in my care.
Maybe the metaphor is this: we transplant ourselves throughout our lives, and we never make a clean break. The soil stains us, the companion plants around crowd or balance or heal us.
When we dig ourselves up (mistake or not), we always take more than yhe single self to what comes next.