Signs of Life

I expected everything to be dead. I mean, it was 4 degrees. At that point, the water in the aloe vera spines should have frozen within the plant and the thawed aftermath would be mush. I pulled the towels off of the aloe vera expecting to say goodbye and i realized that 3 of the 4 aloe vera plants still had green spines that had held their shape in the very center of the plant. I wondered how on earth that was possible. Was it like a human succumbing to hypothermia…did the plant lose its arms and legs to save the torso? I just couldn’t imagine that the plant had any means to generate enough heat under that towel to keep the center spines from freezing at 4 degrees. Over the next couple weeks the pill bugs ate away the dead plant matter and the center spines grew bigger. One of the three survivors died. It looked like it might be okay for a few days and then i found pill bugs in the center of the plant as well and knew the thing had lost its battle and was rotting. I still have two aloe vera plants and am nursing them along in the hopes that they will get bigger and one day generate pups that i will place where the two dead ones lie now. When i realized the aloe vera had a chance i started wondering what else had a will to live. Directly after the storm everything looked very dead but sometimes looks can be deceiving. I wondered if God would revive any of my beloved trees and if so which ones. I started walking around the property and removing the towels and blankets from everything.

The biggest surprise by far was the apple tree. One day last year i opened an apple and the seeds had sprouted inside the apple. I put them on a wet paper towel and eventually into a cup of dirt. Then later in the year i had put it in the ground. Cashew had bulldozed the fencing and run over it a couple times. It froze and lost its four tiny leaves during the winter storm. It was an inch tall. I thought for sure that was the end of it. It literally appeared to be a shriveled 1 inch stick in the ground. It resembled a gnarled toothpick for about a week. But, when i removed the towel i saw a cluster of green perched at the top of the stick. It was a few leaves huddled together, just beginning to unfold. I was in awe. It was just a twig and here it was opening new leaves! What a will to survive! What a great little apple tree!

The barbecue rosemary was actually in fairly good shape considering the circumstances.

The native rosemary didnt fare so well. However, there were green bits. I could work with that.

Arguably, the brown turkey fig tree was the whole point of the orchard in the first place. It seemed the most important tree on the whole property, and yet, it appeared to be very dead for the longest time. Long after other trees sprouted new leaves the fig tree stood grey, leafless, and shriveled. Just at the moment i decided to stop watering it and give up hope, i noticed around 6 little green buds protruding from the branches. It was alive! Within the next week these green nubs would continue to grow and 6 tiny fig leaves would open.

The pomegranate tree was the second biggest surprise after the apple tree. I bought it last year in Austin as a couple of twigs in a pot. It cost me 11 dollars. It was such a tiny tree. I was sure it was dead. But, one day i noticed two little redish green leaves poking out from one of the sticks. Within the next 5 days both twigs were covered in new leaves.

I lifted the blanket from the loquat tree carefully. There was a rather large and easily agitated spider that had made a web on the underside of the blanket that included some of the leaves on the loquat tree. He hated being disturbed and had a lot to say about it every time i lifted the blanket to check on the plant. I got the shock of a lifetime. The loquat tree was fine. It was whole, upright, and all of its leaves were green. There was the spider, mad as ever that i had lifted the roof off its lair. I wondered how the spider had survived. I wondered if it had gone underground or stayed underneath the blanket in its web. What had kept the loquat warm? The spider? If so, what had kept the spider warm? The loquat tree was the only plant on the property that didn’t suffer any damage. Perhaps it was because my grandmother had sprouted it from a seed and it was still somehow under the protection of her green thumb from where it stood. A week later it would open two new leaves, signifying the first new growth to happen to it while on my property.

One day i went out and the mulberry tree had erupted in fits of little green leaf buds. In a week and a half it was covered in leaves and flowers that eventually turned to little green berries.

Pears are my favorite fruit. So, i was holding out hope that the pear tree would follow suit. I kept checking and kept checking and still no signs of life. But i kept watering it and kept praying to God. One day i noticed two little green leaf buds poking out of the branches and i danced about the yard whooping and hollering and shouting “it’s alive! It’s alive!” If somebody had walked by they would have thought i created Frankenstein the way i was carrying on. Within a week and a half the tree was covered in beautiful rounded waxy green leaves with rosy edges. It looked beautiful. It was the best and most thorough comeback out of all the trees!

I knew the lemon trees, the mandarin tree, and the avocado tree were dead. There was no reviving them. They were snap-in-half dry as a bone; no water running through them. If it was a human, i would have said “no pulse”. So, i understood and didn’t expect those to come back. However, the pecan tree had been about to bud when it froze. All the tiny brown buds were right where they had been and they were all still brown, but if my eyes weren’t playing tricks on me, they appeared to be getting bigger. I wondered if i was losing my mind or imagining things. It had not a single green thing on it but these brown buds appeared to be growing. Then one morning i went out and saw that two of the buds had split and green leaves were now peeking out. All the brown buds had been incubating green inhabitants. Within the next 5 days i watched each one split open and give birth to jungle green leaves. The pecan tree lived as well! So i’d lost 2 aloe vera and the tropical plants, but, everything else came back. I did not replace the citrus or avocado tree. There was no point. At some point in every season it was going to freeze hard. There was no sense in wasting money replacing that which wouldn’t survive long term. I would one day put a persimmon tree where the lemon had been. It was a good tree and had given me a few lemons over multiple years. It will be remembered fondly as will the mandarin. I realized God was infinitely amazing and had so many talents i didn’t anticipate. His creations are so much more resilient than mine. I have no idea how any of these trees came back, and yet, here they are.

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