He planted raspberry bushes along the edge of the woods, and apple and pear trees near the low place in the field where water held when it rained. He had the farmer who rented from him scoop out the earth with a bulldozer, declaring what was too low to be plowed he’d make into a pond with a nature trail around it, where he’d plant weeping willows and serviceberry trees with fruit the birds loved.
His ideas were only limited by his own back and muscle, not anyone else’s approval. That’s what he liked. As the pond filled with each rain, he saw deer come cautious out of the woods to drink, a sight that always startled him to pleasure. He ordered free bass from one of the government agencies. The day the fish were to be picked up, he filled the back of his truck with empty buckets and was shocked when the ranger handed him a small plastic bag with fish an inch long. “I could have held them in my mouth and spit them in the pond,” he told a smiling Rosemary.
He planted a garden the size of a tennis court, carefully measuring the space between each row, and put up enough bean poles for an Indian village. The chickens had to be penned until September, he told Michael, and the guinea hens as well. He bought three pigs for Michael to raise, built the sty, fenced in the pony for Anne, built a pony shed, and hung a long swing from the maple in the yard.
It was a gathering, the harvest of a lifetime of secretly held wishes, this house in the country, and when an itinerant photographer showed up one day in June with an aerial view of the farm, he stared at it with a satisfaction that settled into a deep sigh. Here were the house and the drive encircling it, the orchard, the pond, the garden, the mass of woods, and the neat rows of corn. Here were the markings of his existence and vision, his tire treads on the bare earth, his shovel’s turn.
“How much?” he asked the photographer. A moot question. How much would a reflection of your soul be worth?
In memoriam for Charles Tupper, 1935-2012