Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Orchard

I already knew her name--Isabella.
I occasionally caught a fleeting sight of her slipping around a corner as I entered a room in the old farmhouse. Or sometimes she'd flit between the trees in the apple orchard. She was always playing tricks on me. Cupboard doors would be left open. Items would disappear from where I knew I'd left them only to reappear days later in corners of the house that I hadn't explored yet.
The house was full of angles and corners and surprises.

The house was an old northern New Mexican farmhouse made of light brown stucco with a blue metal roof. An old adobe wall divided the front porch from the apple orchard. A statue of a young St. Francis stood by the wall watching over two teenage frogs enthralled with each other caught in stone. Cecil the pottery pig should have been there too. I think Isabella must have taken him. Hidden him.

She has left presents for me some days. A pink mottled Gravenstine apple on the rocking chair, a small round Jonathan on the table on the upper deck. She had a lot to choose from in the old orchard. I still don't know all the varieties that are growing there.

In the kitchen there are a couple of terrones in the kiva fireplace. A cast iron kettle sits by the pot hanger waiting. I wonder if she cooked her dinner there. The terrones are adobe blocks cut out of the Bosque' to make adobe bricks and these two were put in the fireplace---a reminder of Isabella' s home. I think the porcelain farm sink must have come from her home too; as well as the tin light fixtures hanging from the beams over the table. The floors are red brick.

I'd sit on the upper deck early in the mornings listening to the birds calling in the Bosque. A heron and a couple of sand-hill cranes wandered through the orchard one morning.A wild turkey made himself at home. Raccoons and neighboring horses helped themselves to the ripe fruit and a friendly neighborhood skunk visited with the dog next door. Poor dog.

Several times that week I'd see an old blue Chevrolet drive slowly down the dirt road. A dark haired woman in her late forties would gaze out the window as she drove past and watch. I don't think she saw me sitting under the metal roof of the second floor deck. Tomorrow I will go out to meet her.

Maria was quiet, reserved, and lonely. The house use to belong to her. She had lovingly added pieces of her grandmother's home to her own. Isabella, a child bride from Spain came with her darkly handsome husband to start a new life in New Mexico. Divorce had not only taken away Maria’s husband and home, but her grandmother’s remembrances. I don’t know yet whether I’ll be friends with Maria. I want to keep the home happy, away from anger and sad memories. I’ll have to think about that in the coming months.


And now the orchard is mine to watch over. The house our home, and Isabella my constant companion. Her spirit is comfortable living here with us. I hang the painting of my own grandmother’s home above the fireplace in the kitchen. It is a picture of an old stucco home in a cherry orchard that my mother painted. I’m adding my mother’s and grandmother’s spirit. We’re coming full circle.