Our stone pears: pt. 2
And when it comes to regionalism, such has long appealed to me, and doesn’t ensure insularity. I like it for its distinctiveness; and if you want to be a writer, be someone distinctive, you’d better come from somewhere. …
With some people I think, yes, I can see why he or she lives here, not somewhere else that’s very much different. If we’re going to be able, ever, to say we belong somewhere, I incline to think we need to find a convincing answer to the question: what is it you belong to, and why do you feel that way.
from Boundaries – People and Places of Central Otago by Brian Turner
Although I’m well aware of the importance of a sense of place to my well-being, it doesn’t mean living here as opposed to somewhere else will necessarily keep me any healthier or safer.
Seven locals, they’d all “come from somewhere”, with a strong sense of place and at home at the time; I knew them well enough to feel varying degrees of sorrow: a suicide, a death from bowel cancer, a death from a heart attack, a debilitating stroke, a deathblow from a tree being felled, and two near fatal head injuries – one from falling off the house roof, the other from being clubbed by a falling tree branch. All what we would call “too soon” based on present-day expectations of staying alive, healthy and safe.
We’re recovering from the flu (Covid RAT tests negative!): inflamed, snot clogged sinuses throbbing dully like toothache, popping a couple of paracetamol before bed so that we can get some sleep. Aches, tiredness, and for June, coughing bouts and the effort and cacophony needed to keep that phlegm loose and moving on the chest – worried that an infection might take hold in her lungs. Several years now since she got pneumonia, but the memory comes back to haunt us.
A couple of days before I fell ill, I climbed, I don’t know, five maybe six metres up the stone pear behind the garage to saw off the upper branches. Branches that stopped the morning sun, late winter, from pouring into the kitchen and living room. Branches that would bear heavy crops of the stone pears that would eventually fall onto the garage’s corrugated iron roof and, without semblance of musical rhythm and beat, irritatingly drum.
Sixty-eight and with no history of major illness or debilitating accidents (although I did break my wrist as a teenager), I had good reason, despite my “getting on in years”, to believe I could do the job without falling out the tree in the throes of a heart attack, stroke, severe dizzy spell, or from accidentally losing my balance and grip. Whatever, in the worst case scenario I see myself unconscious beneath the tree, major head injuries inflicted.
So I took precautions. Bought myself a ‘Silky Gomtaro 300-Professional’ handsaw that’s used by foresters and arborists. “By far the most popular,” Peter Keeman from Keeman’s Tools and Equipment said as we glanced over the range of Silky handsaws on the display board. Even better, 15% off, that makes it $93.00 in his closing down sale.
A 30 cm long saw blade, a Samurai saw: I’m thinking such because I’m running my hand over its Japanese steel. Dangles from your waist in a sheath – hands free you can monkey yourself up and into position: good footholds for both feet, one hand clutching or arm embracing a sturdy branch or limb. Other hand unsheathing and cutting on the pull stroke, the pull helping to ensure that it “won’t buckle or bind in the kerf,” Peter said.
I wouldn’t have been crazy enough to climb up there with my 7 kg plus chainsaw with its 20 inch chain bar. Would I have used the chainsaw ten years ago? Probably.
Even further removed from crazy, I tied a centimetre thick rope complete with meaty carabiner round my waist, and, once up the tree, I tied another metre long fat rope high up a central, vertical limb and attached the dangling end to the carabiner round by waist. In a plunge, better to swing above the ground than hit it. Just in case, I did wear a hard hat – my cycle helmet.
I felt elated as I climbed down the ladder for the last time -the Samurai warrior with his Samurai saw resheathed! I’d come through unscathed and, in its upper reaches, the stone pear was now delimbed.
That stone pear could well have been planted a hundred years ago; “Plant pears for your heirs,” as the saying goes, a testament to their longevity. Its sheer size for a fruit tree, its early spring profusion of stark white blossom, the intrigue of its small, round pear ‘stones’ and their autumn clanging on the garage’s corrugated iron roof, the sun obscured behind it late winter: all contributed to the tree holding my attention year on year a good deal more than most of our old trees.
The stone pear’s been somewhat brutally cut back, but its new shoots, left untouched, will one day form heavy branches that’ll block early morning sun from streaming into the living room, and in autumn the pears will pummel the garage roof.
So much of everything in life is left up to chance, but no matter, in our case we ended up planted here thirty years ago. Of course I don’t know whether, down the track, I’ll be here, or even still capable of keeping it in check. But for now I’m still living here as opposed to somewhere else. I’ve recovered from the flu and I’m feeling healthy and safe. And, in ways I’d be hard put to express in words, my encounters with this stone pear that has belonged here for much, much longer than I have, help me to feel that I belong here too.
That’s all on modern-day homesteading at Little Owl Gully till next Monday. Thanks for your company. Bye for now.