Today we completed a major replant in our orchard. Hundreds of young avocado trees are now rooted to the ground, standing proud in the spots they will occupy for the next three, four, or maybe five decades. It has been an exciting project, a plan that was put in motion 12 years ago as Dad and I tried to make sense of the future ahead of us. Lemons began to share space with avocados, covercrops spread across the orchard floor, newer avocado varieties joined the party. Last summer the lemons on a third of the ranch were ground into chips to help build the soil for the avocados to come. Soil preparation, irrigation system upgrades, refining planting patterns. It has been busy.

Today that work is finished. And I find myself feeling…what? Somber? Reflective? Aware of my own mortality.?20190617_180953

Planting an orchard is a time of new beginnings. And yet it can also be an act of finality. I will spend the rest of my career planting trees, and this block of avocados that we completed today will outlive me. It will be part of the legacy that I leave to my family and to this land. 

It’s no secret to me where this mood is coming from. In a coincidence of scheduling, today is the 5th anniversary of Dad’s death. It is also 5 months to the day since the passing of Carlos Ortega, the most tireless man I ever knew, who worked for us for 46 years.

The first real work I did in my life was learning to plan and plant an orchard with these men. I have felt their absence keenly these last couple of days, even as I have drawn on the wisdom they passed down.

At the end of the day, in the quiet broken only by the distant hum of commuters and the persistent drip-drip-drip of the irrigation, I looked out at the columns of newly planted arbolitos with a giant lump in my throat.

I wish they were here. In a way, they are, and always will be. Their bootprints are all over this soil, at least metaphorically. Today I am adding my own, even as I struggle with conflicting feelings of pride and humility, accomplishment and loss.

But I still wish they were here.


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