“Hope is itself a species of happiness, and, perhaps, the chief happiness which this world affords: but, like all other pleasures immoderately enjoyed, the excesses of hope must be expiated by pain; and expectations improperly indulged, must end in disappointment.”
- James Boswell, Boswell's Life of Johnson
This is the time of year I hope. I’ve planted all my summer vegetables: a dozen varieties of tomato, potatoes, leeks, blueberries, blackberries, peppers, several different summer squash, cucumbers, beans and peas. I imagine the pleasures of harvesting, cooking and eating my garden’s bounty. I already have recipes selected. The hope that something will go from seed to feed is easy for me to indulge in these still cool days of spring, before the hot dry winds arrive.
But this afternoon I got the lesson about how hope for my harvest is, apparently, a pleasure “immoderately” enjoyed. This morning, we woke to strong Santa Ana winds from the hot dry deserts to our east, rather than our seasonally cool and foggy winds from the ocean twenty miles to our west. This afternoon, a particularly long and prolonged gust of wind cracked the tallest remaining branch of the elderly pine that lives above the pond.
The branch fell and hangs there still, balanced precariously by a wrist-diameter branch that is cracked, but holding up the broken branch, balancing it upside down behind the waterfall. It took out my entire vegetable garden, smashing the arbor, the wire fences, the tomatoes, the peas, beans, and my hopes.
Boswell, quoting Johnson further, says: “If it be asked, what is the improper expectation which it is dangerous to indulge, experience will quickly answer, that it is such expectation as is dictated not by reason, but by desire…” Ibid.
My desires for delicious home-grown food have been thwarted. The tree that killed my desires will not remain to dash further hopes. I told the pine tree that was it. It dies now. I’ve watched it let go, branch by branch. It’s taken out previous arbors, it’s smashed into the waterfall and the pond, and taken out ornamental plants by the dozens. Despite surviving pine bore beetle and being permitted to dip its roots into the pond to survive drought, it still, ungratefully, drops branches.
Just last month, I finally cleared up the brush pile left over from the last major branch that broke and fell into the pond last autumn. Although the gardener’s faithful spouse pleads that I should blame the wind, not the tree, I’m past blaming. Something must pay for the loss of my baby vegetables, for the murder of my hopes. When the men with the big saws come to chop up and remove the fallen branch, the entire tree goes. Even the branch that supports the giant wind chimes – that even now ring solemnly, mocking my immoderate desires. The whole tree goes.