When I stand at my kitchen sink and look out the window above it, I have a close-up view of the branches of a lemon tree. The trunk sits slightly to the side and about four feet away, and watching the daily changes in the branches is more fun than any TV show. New leaves begin as little budding clusters and the next day they’ve spread out with tender baby color. Sometimes before the leaves appear the entire tree is surrounded by a greenish halo for an entire day, and then it disappears when the leaves unfurl. Butterflies sometimes spend a few days fluttering all over the tree, only to leave as suddenly as they came. Birds sometimes come in pairs to check it out, maybe as possible nesting sites, but none of them have taken up residence in it. I don’t blame them, with me watching, they wouldn’t have any privacy.
Lately, lemon blossoms have popped out of little oval pink buds, first only on one side and then more profusely. And, TA-DA! today I saw two or three bees hovering around the flowers. It may seem strange for a grown woman to get excited about seeing bees in her lemon tree, but I whooped with joy when I saw them. The bees mean there may be lemons on the tree this year, which means my neighbor’s tree may have tangerines too, which means the bees may be back in business. Last year, a lot of citrus trees in my area were barren because the bees had died. No bees, no fruit. One explanation was that the bees had some kind of exotic disease. Another, and more probable, explanation was that spraying to kill mosquitoes and insects that attack other crops had also killed the honeybees.
There was something terribly sad about my fruitless lemon tree and my neighbor’s tangerine tree. Every time I looked at them I thought of Rachel Carson’s warnings about what will happen to our planet if we continue to poison it. I’m not sure how many bees it takes to ensure that my little tree will bear fruit, but I’m still grateful for the few I saw this morning. I wish them good health, long life, and lots and lots of honey.