james is famous for growing avocado trees from seed. for as long as i've known him, he's had several. early on, he asked me to be mindful when i cut the fruit in half so as not to slice the seed. he places the seeds, like slimy wooden eyeballs, in little cups half-filled with water, all around the kitchen sills and shelves. some of them he snuggles into the soil of already existing spider plants, where they might take root. some never root at all, they dry out leaving brown rings in the glass and make a run for the compost when james isn't looking. but when they sprout, the seed cracks a giant fissure like a fault in the earth's crust. out comes a delicate green sprout, a celebration of life, dividing into two tiny translucent leaves, then four. the trees grow slow and lanky, their tender broad leaves stretching out sometimes to a foot long. i love the way they glow a radiant green in the sun, their veins twisting like a road map and embossing tiny valleys and hills. the trees never bear fruit, or a hardwood trunk, but his tallest ones i remember reaching over five feet in the sunny east-facing windows of the famous jersey street house. that house was leveled this year, we sold those avocado trees along with the tenor banjo and everything else we might later regret at the yard sale before we moved out of that bellingham neighborhood where we met. avocado trees, like the homes we have lived in, have come and gone.
the avocado trees are little creations. they breathe life into every space we have inhabited together. they are communicative: the leaves droop sadly when they are in need of water, or yellow when they need nutrients, and they stretch out proudly when they are happy and well cared for. and because of this, they are easy to care for. as long as you're paying attention, that is. i remember one summer, when james and i were going between edison and portland a lot, spun out like a spool of yarn, we forgot to call someone to water the avocados. driving up to the house, we both had a sinking feeling. it was a sad sad day, finding them all dead and brown.
there is something about this little avocado tree obsession of james' that really sums him up for me. he is constantly pushing at creating beauty and positivity in a world that is decaying. some people might think it's silly, the avocado and the spider plant farm we have going. but for james, it is healing. they are symbols. you see, when you know too much about what's wrong with the world, it is important to make things right, in your own way. james is seeking out the discards, and saying "look at this! it is still good for something!" he is fighting the good fight, with all his might. that is what i love about james and his avocado trees.