Years ago I wrote a song with this chorus: "The country lives inside me/no matter where I roam;/I don't care how long I'm gone/I still call country home." I grew up on an avocado ranch of a couple acres and remember tromping up the hill to my favorite tree, carrying a knife, salt, half a lemon and a spoon. I would pick the ripest fruit, sit against the ample trunk and eat at least one half of the avocado. I can still recall the smell of the avocado leaves, the dust, the feel of the rough trunk and of course the taste of green heaven.
Here I am decades later still this woman who belongs in the country not the city, who now lives on a corner block near the beach, but has twelve fruit trees, kiwis, berries, vegies and a love of all things growing. So recently when getting ready for a trip, I was less focused on packing than on picking the basil and making pesto, picking and drying persimmons and spending an hour watering everything. I have never been a house person, the land being so much more important to me. I remember when buying my house in the mountains; the realtor walked with us to the stream, through redwoods, bay trees and firs. I started to cry and my husband Tom said, "We'll take it." He knew that it was the land that called me, the water, the trees and the hawks circling.
It nearly broke my heart to sell the mountain house, having to leave the owls and woodpeckers, the grape arbor, apple trees and waterfall. Moving to the city meant adjusting to garbage trucks at 5am and busses parked next to the house with engines running; it meant tourists in the summer camping next to the yard, leaving trash and even defecating in the bushes; but it also meant closeness to the beach and town and biking to work; it meant family visiting us more and children loving to walk to the Boardwalk. And we tried and succeeded in bringing country to this city home, taking out Bermuda grass and dirt and putting in stone and roses and lilacs, apples, plums, pears, peaches and nectarines, with an orange and lime tree in the warmer patio.
I guess you can take a woman out of the country, but can't take the country out of this woman. I will always choose a garden over a house, will always grow things to eat or just admire. Even though loved ones have protested, I still lean a ladder against an outbuilding, climb onto the roof to pick avocados from a neighbor's tree, loving the view of the sea from the top, loving snapping off the stems and plopping the fruit in my bucket. I give many away, and save enough to split, salt and spoon, closing my eyes and reliving childhood in each bite.