Worn in, not out

That Gil Hodges autograph first baseman’s  mitt, the one that when brand new seemed to repel the baseball instead of catch it. So stiff, no real pocket to hold a throw from the hot corner, no less field a hard pounded grounder.

Then, after a rousing game of pepper with some of the primo grommets, one of em’ comes up, points in the direction of the mitt and says, you need to oil that thing for it to work good. He then says, “that’s not a pecker joke.”

Now Tommy’s dad, having played triple A ball and coached his share of little league teams had passed on wisdom of the ages to junior regarding how to transform  that lifeless thing with a price tag still hanging on it to a soft hearted ball munchin’ work of art.

Ingredients list: a bucket of linseed oil, a softball, a piece of twine and at age twelve, the patience of Job.

INSTRUCTIONS: Remove price tag. Place softball into the “sweet” spot of webbing. Gently wrap with twine while intoning a prayer of thanks for being given the opportunity to act as midwife in bringing to Life this Gil Hodges signature first baseman’s mitt. Immerse the entire schmeggegles in bucket of oil. Do Not Touch for Three Days. Remove from oil and let drain till no more drippin’. Roll around in dry towel to soak up excess ooze. Let sit in warm dry place (preferably with fan) for Three More Days. Remove twine as though an ancient mummy therein resides. Allow softball to fall to Earth. Behold the transformation. Feel the transformation. Place left hand in the now oh so soft, pliable and confident grip of the Mitt. Pick up softball. Close eyes and channel Gil Hodges’ greatest fielding moments while pounding the softball into the sweet spot over and over again. Resist the urge to get a full blown boner. Become the Mitt. Play Ball.

Within four or five practices and games, that Mitt was golden. After a season, worn in. Broken of any resistance to its function. Totally reliable. So much so that when out on the field there was a kind of shared intuition. Hand in glove.

Reason I mention this flashback is because it came when I was walking the orchard and noticed a wonderful flowering happening on the Kennsington Pride mango which has also taken on a lovely symmetry of shape after minor pruning last year.

As I stood there, the entire history of the tree came to me, and as it did, it was as though we were hanging out, shootin’ the poop.

I had a “baby pictures” moment remembering Jaime over at Plant It Hawaii telling me she had a Kennsington. Not a variety they normally stock. so I jumped. And a pretty little tree it was. Planted with T.L.C., or was that T.H.C.?

From then on it was heartbreak, for years. The deer love to browse anything young really, but go a bit lolo when they find a mango they like, and as far as I can tell they’re a bit like humans when it comes to that. For a number of reasons, the Pride was targeted repeatedly and as often, slowly nursed back to the point where it began pushing out new growth.

Finally got the property fenced in and with special care, a flurry of growth ensued. I’m looking at how clean and disease free the emerging panicles and new leaf flush are and remembering the years that passed just hoping the makeshift hogwire hoops surrounding the tree would allow the trauma to pass.

So she’s beginning to look really good. I recall the first fruit set. Three little dark green nubules. It’s really a subset of having a kid, when you can wiggle it a bit and it holds on the branch, and you realize you’ll be watching and waiting till it matriculates, only in this case you don’t buy it a Prius, you slice it up and eat it.

Then I recall the fence being broken. I recall the torn up bark and deep scars three feet up and nearly circumventing the tree as a young buck had worked the fuzz off its antlers at the expense of years of tryin’ to fight back. I recall the sight of the branch holding the only three small fruits on the ground, by my feet.

And as the breeze ruffling the leaves and sunlight, playing hide and seek with the clouds carry these memories between us, the observed and the observer find the freedom of release in each other and with that, the peace born of perseverance appears. A lesson in inter kingdom empathy.

Still there, the scars up and down the trunk tell the story in ways invisible and unfathomable to the casual passerby.

With any luck, come harvest we’ll have enough to take some to market and turn folks on to one of Oz’s best.

She has the look of a tree that’s found her way. A tree that has unlocked the secrets within the soil. A tree in harmony with its community. A tree that tolerates me poking around. Worn in and ready to find herself heavy with golden fruit. Hard not to root for a tree like that.

Every tree here has a story that is an integral part of our life and they’re chattering away all the time.

Happens that I’m posting this on the eve of St. Valentines Day. Big money day for jewelers, not to mention flowers and chocolate. I put my highschool graduation ring, some hibiscus flowers and a bunch of cacao powder in with some kale, chard, banana, papaya, atemoya, lilikoi and honey and made a green drink honoring the fallen.

For those with kind hearts and good intentions, may the inner glow of peace and bliss radiate throughout the nine realms.

For those with closed hearts and malice aforethought, may your chocolate ice cream turn to Mozarts last movement as it enters your mouth. May all your days be filled with the uncertainty of irritable bowel syndrome,  and may all your nights be re-runs of Bela Lugosi films.

Week in brief: a friend told me that they saw a bumper sticker that read, “un-fuck the world”. Hard to move past that one.

The more you show, the more we’ll grow. Peace, Jp

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