Now the orange trees have demonstrated what they provide, caring for them will be an honour. When the first fruit ripened, I picked as much as I could carry by stuffing them up my jumper and brought them inside where half of them rotted. Eventually I relaxed and began to understand country ways. Now every morning I stand underneath them and pluck a night-chilled orange for breakfast, eating it while watching the grass grow and listening to birdsong. When I finish I wipe the juice off my face with my sleeves. In October I remember wondering whether there would still be oranges on the tree when George came for Christmas. In February, still expecting the fruit to run out, I began making juice and freezing it. In March, I made vast containers of sorbet. Now in late April there is still good, bright, firm fruit on the trees, as well as brilliant lime shoots sprouting from the trunks and bees in waxy white clusters of orange blossom.
At times the scent of 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 square dark green glass bottle which, at the age of 10, and living on a mountain in Africa far from shops, I regarded as an exotic and luxurious treasure, and it reminds me of reading in a garden on the Amalfi coast when I was pretty rich and wore white dresses and drank wine at lunch time. But it mainly brings back memories of my sister’s wedding, of the blossom pinned to her coat, and how happy everyone was during the wedding feast 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; it is confirmation of the ever-turning cycle, that things go, but they always, always come back. Yet at the same time the yearly arrival of the blossom and the memories conjured up by its scent are an inescapable and poignant reminder of everything that has gone and won’t return.