My mother lost her Russian Olive earlier this spring. It was an enormous and stately thing, older and taller than any I've seen around these parts. Most young trees are reedy things that look like willowy, untamed and stubborn weeds, but Mom's tree was tall and wide, with branches that swept out low and long over the grass on the northern side of her beautiful yard. It's trunk was thick and gnarled and the boughs swayed softly in the wind, a perfect tree for laying beneath and watching the blue of the sky and the wisps of southeastern Idaho clouds meander lazily above its branches. Mom was heartsick and cried when they had to take it down but its roots had grown so large and had fanned out so wide that they were cracking and splintering the driveway and threatening the foundation under the garage. It was my favorite Russian Olive and looking at the empty spot in her yard when I return home later this summer will be a bit like touching your tongue to the place where a tooth used to reside.
There is one tree here, not far down The Run and on the golf course side of the fence, that has captured my attention. It is not a large thing, and I doubt it will grow much taller, but its branches have exploded in an abundance of dusty green leaves and tiny, yellow flowerlings, their color unmatched by all the other trees, grasses and blossoms combined. When my office windows are open its perfume drifts inside and fills my apartment with its heady lemony, butter-mint fragrance, hypnotic and sweet, never obtrusive. Last night after Ken and the animals fell asleep, I laid awake in my bed, eyes closed while I listened to the quiet slumbering around me and to the soft whisperings of the chimes on the patio as a quiet breeze danced with the tree and lured its scent through my windows where it could flutter softly around my head until I was sated and dreams took me. In the morning the perfume lingered on my pillow and I was a long time pulling myself from beneath the covers and outside where I could sip my tea and watch the color come into the sky from my patio.
Duncan and I strolled past it this morning and I thought, "Certainly it cannot become any more wondrous or beautiful. Surely there is a limit to such things, even in the wilds of nature." But this evening on our walk I could not help but stop and marvel at it again while Duncan sat in front of an open window and panted at one of Jeffrey's stray's kittens sitting wide-eyed on the sill batting playfully at him through the screen. I turned my back on him and breathed and breathed and breathed some more, the kind of smell that somehow manages not to dissipate but to grow stronger and more honeyed with each slow intake of breath. The gold of the petals caught the sun and reflected in my eyes where they were committed to memory.
I have them for only two weeks a year and will relish every precious moment they grace my life.
When I die, I want to be planted under a Russian Olive whose roots can embrace me while the voice of the summer wind can sing sweet lullabies to me until long after my name and the sound of my whistle have been forgotten.