IT is as though some giant’s hand were squeezing the trunks of the trees, forcing the sap up and along the branches, for the blossom seems to squirt into the air.
There have been other Mays in other years, but never has there been so much blossom.. The bees are bewildered by it. A few small bush-apples which were as austere as walking-sticks when I planted them only two months ago are now in full flower, and look like little girls just off to a carnival.
Peach, cherry, plum and apple strain into the air; all the trees in the orchard are out together, and for once , no clumsy wind has shorn or rain washed their frail, enameled , fine petals down into the lecherous hands of grass.
What flower is there as delicate as this flower that grows out of a knarled old tree with its trunk all twisted and its bark all blistered? It is a paradox. Beauty is always a paradox.
The village postman is an amateur with a grafting knife. But by “amateur” I do not suggest that he is incompetent. I mean what the word means—that is, I wish to say: he loves. For it is more than a casual interest or a hobby that takes him out into his orchard in the very grip of winter whilst he makes his careful cut into the stump of an old tree and grafts a new clean shoot into it. And it is more than an interest in arboriculture that keeps him there for hours pottering about with a jar of white clay, which he uses to cover the graft and keep the air from the moist joint. I have watched him binding his bandages over the limb of a tree with the same care with which he would tend a child. When people say that we English are a race of amateurs, we should be proud; for what other virtue has man than his ability to love? And the object of the love does not matter: it can be a woman, a dog or a stump of an old tree. It is only the love that matters. That is all that ever matters. The rest is as irrelevant as a wind blowing over a shoreless ocean.
With the postman’s triumph of getting both pink and white blossom on a single tree, I shouldn’t be surprised to see even my gateposts or my wife’s clothes-prop burst into sudden and urgent flower.
It is not easy to describe this spring. We English do not run to lyricism. Indeed, beauty sometimes embarrasses us. We feel a little shy of it, even awkward—like Joe, the carpenter’s son, who’s been musing over my orchard gate for the last half-hour. Silently we exchanged cigarettes. Then, whilst staring at my most decrepit old tree, which stood in full flamboyant bloom, he said, half to himself: “When we were retreating to Dunkirk I often wondered what it was I was defending; and when we landed in Normandy I used to ask myself what I was fighting for. …I suppose I was fighting for that there old tree of yours! Damn funny, ain’t it?”