The sounds have come back. Winter's quietness is lovely in its way (I suppose) but isolating, a mild, narrow-bandwidth version of the way I imagine deafness to be. Maybe if you grow up without hearing you learn more thoroughly the forms of communication that don't depend on voice, and you master techniques that allow you to conquer isolation. But to grow deaf later in life, to lose one's hearing—suddenly not to notice a loved one's step crossing the threshold, or to hear voices calling from across the room—would be a loss of connection hard to bear. In a low-level, curable, seasonal way, that's what winter's quiet is to me.
Now, well into spring, it's as if that lost bandwidth has been restored. The neighbor's aspen trees have begun pattering in the wind again (such a different sound than their dry, mid-summer clatter) while the sand cherries' new leaves rush like whitewater. Say's phoebes whistle and blow raspberries from the roof; bees and wasps play the wash-tub bass amid the desert olives; yesterday I heard the first sonic boom after a hummingbird zipped past. The ice cream truck has been playing "Red Wing," just like the ice cream truck of my childhood.
With the wind whispering through the transparent young leaves and the bees diving in and out among the flowers, the largest of the three desert olives (Forestiera neomexicana), the male tree, has been extra-good company this week. In the late afternoon warmth in the walled garden, the blossoms' fragrance—like mango with a hint of pineapple—has lured everything that buzzes and drones into its radius. The tree has been talking, too. Not in so many words (or in words at all) and not particularly to me, but I think that it has preferences to convey, opinions about strength and weakness and growth.
I've been thinking about that tree anyway. It worries me a little: like other things I planted in the garden's first year (the biggest sand cherry, the five foot tall agastache, the waist-high arugula), it grew too big too fast; I almost wonder whether the contractors "salted" the ground with fertilizer or something, as nothing has grown at that rate since. The tree's fast initial growth seems to have weakened it. By late spring every year even the main trunks start bending under the weight of new leaves. Staking helps some, but pruning after the first flush of growth is over, just before summer heat sets in and the tree goes sleepy again, seems to work best.
So I've been studying the tree hard, marking water sprouts and weak Y's with string so that I can find them even once the leaves are fully grown, and trying to figure out where to balance the growth. I've been trying to listen, too, to what the tree is saying through the blossoms. Only certain branches on certain of the multiple trunks have flowers, you see. The rest have plenty of leaves, but no blooms. The flowering branches seem like the tree's language of approval, its vote of confidence in the strength of those trunks and branches and stems. These are the ones entrusted to carry on their half of the species so that the female trees can set fruit. The honeybees and bumblebees and carpenter bees and hoverflies and wasps in their relentless circling and settling have given the tree's approval a sonic form. Their buzzing isn't just noise but a message, an endorsement, and a loud one at that. At any rate, I'm letting those flowers guide me in which branches to keep, and which to prune away.
I just wish I could be sure that we are really speaking the same language.