I have reporters checking in with me all day long. That’s mostly what being a city editor is all about — availability.
The calls and texts can come at night and on weekends, too, which is why I always have my cell strapped to my side.
Last Saturday morning, while perched atop an 8-foot ladder, I felt my phone vibrate. I dropped to solid ground to answer.
It was Maria, our Saturday reporter, checking in about her day’s schedule.
And what are you doing? she asked.
I paused. My answer was going to sound very non-city-editor. More like a Sonoma farmer.
Pruning my apple tree, I said.
Maria didn’t blink. Being a reporter, she immediately asked a follow-up question. Does it have apples?
Some rotten ones, I said. Apples that for one perverse reason or another never fell.
I’ve written before about this apple tree, usually in January which everyone knows is Pruning Time. Some people start the new year creating order inside their homes. I attack a tree.
I congratulated myself on being able to handle a call from work while hardly breaking pruning stride. Is this what they call work-life balance?
I like to prune, a job best spread over two days. This year my satisfaction was off the charts.
The national news out of D.C. has me feeling on edge. I can either work myself into a royal tizzy or divert to something calming involving lopping shears.
Last weekend was deliciously warm and sunny, the drying out that I thought would never come. In the yard, atop the ladder, actually sweating, I felt the elation that others feel when they’ve pulled themselves up the shear face of Half Dome.
When I married Cheryl 14 years ago, this apple tree was a wild thing. As a recently divorced woman raising three children, working a job and going back to school, Cheryl had made pruning the least of her priorities.
She remarried the right guy. Pruning is what I do.
That first winter she accused me of mutilating her tree. It had been magnificent, she said. Now look at it.
Wild broncos are also magnificent, Cheryl, but you can’t ride them. I’ve reduced the tree to a proper picking height.
In fact, almost no picking has ever occurred. The apples are mealy, virtually inedible unless you’re in the applesauce business. Whoever planted this tree decades ago gave heirloom a bad name.
So, why is this never-harvested tree still here, occupying valuable backyard real estate? Are the Courtneys all about growing apples to feed birds and hornets?
It’s partly inertia. Removing a tree as well-established as this one would require a lot of effort, and then what? Wait a decade to harvest a replacement?
And another thing — a big thing: When fully leafed, this tree blocks the view from our living room into our neighbor’s living room, and their view into ours.
I’d accept any living thing that did that, even a juniper.
This pruning is a physical workout for me, the office worker. It’s a struggle to keep repositioning the ladder which weighs a ton. I have to drag it over and around decorative fencing, raspberry canes and agapanthus hillocks. To finish the job, I have to climb into the tree, contorting myself in unnatural ways.
Sometimes the amount of force needed to make the hundreds of branch cuts causes my hands to tremble. If I pruned for a living, I’d soon have a cowboy’s handshake.
When my job was done, I got kudos from Cheryl, who was envious of my chosen assignment. Lucky you, she said, working outside while she labored indoors.
I could not disagree. Lucky me.