Winter, by Nina Zolotow


“In their garden there was always a wild profusion of tomatoes, ripening on the vine, a leafy basil, arugula, and lettuce, and glossy purple eggplants, and red and yellow peppers and zucchini with its long, bright blossoms, and there was lunch at the wooden table on hot summer afternoons, with plates of pasta and bread and olives and salads with herbs and many bottles of red wine that made you feel warm and drowsy, while bees hummed and the sprawling marjoram, thyme and rosemary gave off their pungent fragrances and at the end of the meal, always inexplicably there were fresh black figs that they picked themselves from the tree at the garden centre, an 18-foot fig tree, for how was it possible-this was not Tuscany but Ithaca- Ithaca, New York, a rough-hewn landscap of deep rocky gorges and bitter icy winters, and I finally had to ask him- my neighbor- how did the beautiful tree live through the year, how did it endure the harshness of a New York winter and not only survive until Spring but continue producing the miraculous fruit, year after year, and he told me that it was quite simple, really, that every Fall, after the tree lost all its leaves he would severe the tree’s roots on one side only , and on the other side, he would dig a trench, and then he would just lay down that flexible trunk and limbs, lay them down in the earth and gently cover them with soil, and there the fig tree would rest, warm and protected, until Spring came, when he could remove its protective covering and stand the tree up once again to greet the sun; and now in this long grey season of darkness , of cold and grief (do I have to tell you over what?for isn’t it always the same- the loss of a lover or the incomprehensible cruelty of one human being to another?) , as I gaze out of my window at the empty space, where the fig tree will stand again next spring, I think, yes, lay me down like that, lay me down like the fig tree that sleeps in the earth, and let my body rest easily on the ground- my roots connect me to some warm immutable center- luxuriating in the heart of winter.”


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