Now they’ve shown me what they can do, caring for my orange trees, even the ones with clusters of rigid spikes, will be an honour this year. When the first fruit ripened, I picked as much as I could stuff up my jumper and hauled it inside where some of it rotted. Eventually relaxed into country ways, and every morning since late October I’ve been standing under them, watching the grass grow, listening to birdsong, and eating night-chilled oranges for breakfast, then wiping the juice off on my jeans, or now the weather’s better, my legs. Obviously that’s not something you want to do in wasp season. I remember as I stood gorging myself in late November wondering whether the oranges would still be any good when George came for Christmas. They were. In January and February, assuming the trees were going to stop producing, and the oranges start rotting, I made more juice than usual. (If I’d known I would be making industrial qualities of juice, I’d have invested in something more substantial and modern than a hand-carved, olive wood twizzle stick.) And in March, I thought I should probably use them up, and made litres and litres of sorbet which I thought I’d save for guests, but have actually been eating out of the containers while deciding what to eat. Now it’s late April and there is still good, bright, firm fruit on the trees, as well as brilliant lime shoots sprouting from the trunks and waxy white clusters of orange blossom all over.
At times, the scent of the blossom settles over the entire farm and fills the house, sweet and heady. It brings back memories of my sister’s wedding; the first bath oil I was ever given: orange-scented in a dark green square embossed glass bottle which, at the age of 10, and living in Africa far from shops which sold such elegant, sophisticated stuff, I treasured; and reading in a garden on the Amalfi coast when I was pretty rich and wore white dresses and drank wine at lunch time. But mainly my sister’s wedding, the blossom pinned to her coat, and how happy everyone was around the long wooden table.
It seems strange, but it’s the way of most things out here in the natural world. The arrival of the blossom is reassurance, confirmation of the ever-turning cycle, that things go, but they always, always come back. And at the same time the arrival of the blossom and the memories conjured up in its scent are an inescapable and poignant reminder of summery things that have gone and won’t return.