As a child I followed my father around his land, memorizing the scientific names of the plants he catalogued like notes from a flute. He cultivated the earth to observe the tendencies of living things. He patiently waited for trees to develop into shade-giving giants, and experimented with leaves and a palette of flowers; fruit, nuts, vegetables, and seeds.
The year I was born he manifested a dream and dug a lap pool fit for a meditative Olympian.
He rose everyday, often before the sun, and swam miles. When I woke up early enough I could peek through a window to see ripples on the water. When the water was still I knew I had missed him.
In more recent years my children have enjoyed treks through his trees, watching the figs ripen and collecting the pecans ready to pop from their green skins.
We fill buckets with citrus fruit and we juice oranges and lemons until we are sticky with yellow-dyed hands.
Sometimes I walk alone, crunching leaves under my feet, trying to recall the scientific names of the plants that fill the acres.
When I knew for certain my father was sick, that my fear of losing him was closer to the real than to the future, I climbed into his pool, longing to feel safely shielded underwater.
Loss, even before it happens, is longing. It is a heart cracked open on the bottom of an empty pool, pausing to accept the wave that will come, even in the desert.
My children play with him, more gently than before. We listen to him as he fills the room with his voice, his wisdom, and his influence. I tell him how grateful I am to have observed, to have grown among his thoughts, his choices, and his life.
And when I sit, addressing the longing that I fear, writing my thoughts with sharp, dry pine needles, I honor the beautiful present.
I walk through the orchard to the dried out hollyhock stalks, collecting their seeds for replanting.
I open my eyes to the time we have, knowing that this earth holds us infinitely.
Photo Credit: Original photography and editing by Lisa Sandler Photography