UNDERSTORY 003: Pawpaw tree in fruit, Southeast field, Late July 2018. A perfect garden is devoid of lessons. Without delays and disappointments how would we ever learn the art of perseverance?

For the first few years when anyone would ask what we grow on our farm, I would crack a smile and quip, “we mostly cultivate patience.” It’s like that with perennials. A tiny herb, a bare root whip, a scattering of seeds cast out into the landscape like a wish that might one day blossom and fruit into the vision so easily teleported to within the mind’s eye. But time travel otherwise trudges on at a reliable pace; minutes becoming hours, becoming seasons, becoming years. In the meantime you will curse the nursery woman who sold you the poorly grafted pawpaws, then you’ll curse yourself for buying more. You will take studious notice of the rain, then run around like a Cassandra warning of the coming drought. By the time your second cousin mentions to you at a family bbq that the weather has been dry, seasons will have passed. You will have mulched the pawpaws, dragged irrigation to the pawpaws, started pawpaws from seed. You will have lamented your overzealousness having planted pawpaws much too early within the succession of the landscape. You will have discovered that you don’t very much like the taste of pawpaw actually. Then decide, no, yes, you do indeed like the taste of pawpaw. When a pawpaw tree shoots up as a sucker a few feet away from a tree you planted and it grows with effortless speed and vigor, you will reconsider the place of a pawpaw in a forest garden all together. Would they not be happier in their natural colonial patches? Why force this pawpaw into allegiance with a neighboring elder?! You will embrace the pawpawness of the pawpaw. You will begin to consider yourself knowledgable on the ways of the pawpaw. You will admire its long leaves, as they glisten slick like cellophane, after a summer shower. You will forget you planted pawpaw. Then one day you will come upon a pawpaw fruit and you will laugh to yourself, traveling back to a time when you thought this was the purpose of a pawpaw.