Sunday, July 13, 2008

In a Pear Tree


On the far side of my late uncle's farm, which adjoined ours, there was an abandoned apple orchard. I say "abandoned" because no one ever came there, as far as I know, when I was a child. It was in a small valley, enclosed all around with forest, so it had a hidden feel to it. And it was about as far in that direction as my childhood explorations went, so it was a boundary zone - far enough from home to seem completely away, but still within my territory. We called it "The Hampton Place". Sometimes I would go there and play, always alone, and always in an odd state of mind.

The house, presumably of the Hamptons, had burned down. The foundation, with a rare basement for a house of its time, remained, along with a barn and a couple of sheds. In the basement, amongst the rubble of its immolation, there was a rusty birdcage, and it haunted my imagination.

I mentioned in an earlier post about keeping owls ~ well owls were just the tip of the iceberg. I had a tub-terranium of salamanders in my bedroom, along with hotel cages for voles, white-footed mice, chipmunks, flying squirrels, possums, raccoons, orphan birds, terrapins, turtles, snakes, lizards, you name it. I fancied myself a naturalist, studying the flora and fauna, as well as making friends with them, and I was always needing more accomodations. So that rusted cage could have been put to use, and sometimes I would pick it up and think about taking back with me, but I never did.

Instead, what I would usually do was climb up into one of the two pear trees that remained beside the foundation and think.

In those reveries the house returned. The cage, with its singing bird - had it been suspended from the ceiling? Was there a window through which the bird could see the open vastness of the sky - crossed by the slow moving heaps of summer clouds? Did the bird see the lush green of the glossy-leaved pear trees and long to perch, as I perched, in the secret shade?
What happened in the fire? Then, just as now, I would approach the possibilities and then pull back. The pyre was exciting, but the fire ~ well, enough said.

Instead I would pick one of the green-globed pears and bite through the skin, into the crisp and juicy flesh. I ate them greedily, and alone, and they were the best fruit I've ever tasted, because they were stolen, and I had escaped.

(This watercolor was made for a video projection used in the staging by Kentucky Opera of The Stone Man, about 8" x 10", 1989)

4 comments:

Cathy said...

That watercolor is one of my favorites, so I'm happy to know the tale behind it.

Very nice work on the blog title, by the way.

shepherdgirl said...

The imagination of the child - finding abandonned buildings and remnants can conjure up quite a flurry to one's little imagination. The haunting cage, yes, I can see why you would have been tormented by it. We have a remnant of an out building/shed by our veggie bed. When we moved here and were prepping the veg. bed, I was convinced pets had been buried at this spot, as i kept finding rocks in circular patterns. Martyn felt it was a silo. But we never dug there. Love the image too.

Dan Dutton said...

Thanks! My friend William came by and worked on the blog title with me - he's a maestro of photoshop & graphic design generally.

It's wonderful to me how adventures I had as a child keep growing in richness and depth as I look back with the mind of age.

Kim said...

I like William-ized title. Funny, I also grew up sitting in a pear tree alone with my thoughts (and lot's of snacks). Dad cut it down and burned it last summer. I cried secretly when I came to visit one evening and found the trunk smoldering, exposed, black and barren in the spot where I used to climb and dream in the comforting rustle of the leaves...