the orchard

She stood among the dirt and leaves, sweat dripping from her brow. The garden and the trees and flowers shimmered around her, shivering in the wind with delight. The fragrance of the orchard rose up lazily, playfully up into the air.

Round and round the plot of land, swirled a high stone wall, breached only by a swinging, ivy-grown gate.

A few had dared to enter, even fewer had been welcome, but she always took immense pleasure in showing stray visitors the intricacies and complexity of the orchard in its design and intention. Spontaneity and improvisation burst forth, evidenced by certain random flourishes wrought by a steady, distracted hand. Both erratic and impeccably structured, chaos found its soulmate in beauty. Blossoms and fruit of all colors dotted the canopies and limbs and boughs of gnarled, twisted trees, sunning marvelously in the brilliance of daylight.

She never turned anyone away who might chance to knock on that gate, although most would never make it past the first winding row of arbors. These casual connossieurs marvel at the fruit, some even bold enough to pluck a fat, juicy apple from the boughs and admire the sheen and polish they saw from afar, though seemingly up close. And soon, the momentary admiration, genuine and deliberate, would be forgotten in an instant.

Others strolled beneath the leaves and scent and sun, wishing to take their time. These moments, she adored, eagerly inviting them to sample additional flavors. The soil was well tended, the condition of the trees scrupulously cultivated, and the color, quality and freshness of fruit meticulously monitored. Sometimes, she would give up contrivance, surrendering with a laugh that echoed like a tinkling bell, and the leaves all rustled in sighing agreement.

Even a few imps managed to scale the gate, tumbling down in a clumsy, haphazard, uncontainable frenzy, surprising, annoying, though eventually delighting her.

One or two chose to breathe deeply, lying beneath the branches, staring up at the midsummer sky, smelling the earth and vapors released so cavalierly, idealistically into the atmosphere, the pungent and sweet aroma drifting into the breeze, mixing and blending with floating dandelion seeds, then merely drowned away by summer rainstorm or whisked off into oblivion by a sudden wind.

But for you, she swings the gate open wide, wider than any other soul that has dared to venture through this beautiful, chaotic, unmeasurable mess of an orchard.

Yet your eyes see only locks, bolts, daggers and angelic swords of fire barring the way. She has reacted before, and called down fiery angels in the past, but they never obey her whim anyway. The gate has served its purpose she designated at its creation.

I passed by there earlier this week, quite puzzled and strangely moved to find the gate torn down.

Perhaps one day, the earth beneath this not-so-secret orchard may one day find its path, beaten and beautiful with the footprints of those beyond her own choosing.

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