Loquat

Loquat trees are great for Louisiana landscapes and produce fruits that can be eaten fresh or used to make jams and jellies.

Home for the pandemic, I don’t get out much these days. But on occasional trips to the grocery or drugstore, I’m often startled by a sharp thud as I back out the garage.

It’s a limb of our loquat striking the roof of my car, the tree’s branches so heavy with fruit that some of them brush our SUV.

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You might know about loquats. Our tree rises about 20 feet, making yellow fruit the size of golf balls each spring. As I’ve noted before, the fruit is both bitter and sweet, a lot like life.

The bittersweetness of spring this year defines our moment. To someone blissfully ignorant of the news, the greening season right now would seem fine beyond compare. But despite so much renewal, a vast contagion confines us with thoughts of death.

In an essay I recently wrote for The Wall Street Journal, I tried to tell readers outside Louisiana what it’s like to live here as the grim numbers come in from our local coronavirus fight. But what I said could describe communities beyond our state and across the globe. What struck me, as I mentioned back then, was the “way in which spring has been an occasion this year for anxiety rather than anticipation, for worry instead of wonder. In a pandemic, it seems, we stand to lose not only the lives of the vulnerable and the vitality of the economy, but the abiding sense of renewal that’s always been spring’s highest gift.”

I’ve been thinking about this as my son, pursuing college online since his Texas campus closed, joins me on the porch for lunch each day. Our perch gives us an ample view of the loquat, so laden with fruit this April that it looks like a Christmas tree sagging with ornaments.

Our neighbor stops by each spring to harvest some of the fruit and make jam to share, a gift that sustains us long after spring has passed.

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We haven’t seen our neighbor foraging for loquats this year, though. She and her husband are both doctors, apparently too busy with the care of the sick to think about the pleasantries of home preserves. We’ll try to save some for her, though social calls are pretty much out of the question these days.

In this strange time, I’ve been losing myself for awhile each night in the pages of “The Splendid and the Vile,” Erik Larson’s new book about how Winston Churchill faced the German bombing of London in World War II. Larson notes how odd it was that London was so beautiful in May 1940 just as war shadowed England. “Everywhere bluebells and primroses bloomed,” he writes. “Delicate spring leaves misted the tops of trees.”

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Of course, I thought about our own bizarre season of beauty and terror. But resurrection amid darkness is what Easter is all about. I welcome it with open arms.


Email Danny Heitman at danny@dannyheitman.com.