Monday, February 15, 2010


Enemy of Orchards

Czeslaw Milosz, "Happiness," in To Begin Where I Am: Selected Essays (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2001), pp. 20-26 (at 23-24):
Many years later, at the age of eighty, I returned to the place of my birth and childhood. The landscape had changed, and probably those changes were more radical than any made there by man since the Middle Ages. Lithuania, an independent country before World War II, was occupied in 1940 by the Soviet Union, and the collectivization of agriculture was enforced by the Communist government. Whole villages, with their houses, yards, barns, stables, gardens, were erased. In their place stretched the open space of huge fields cultivated by tractors. I stood at the edge of a plateau above my river's canyonlike valley and saw only a plain without a trace of the clumps of trees that once marked the emplacement of every village. Among the many definitions of Communism, perhaps one would be the most apt: enemy of orchards. For the disappearance of villages and the remodeling of the terrain necessitated cutting down the orchards once surrounding every house and hut. The idea of collective farming—grain factories instead of little peasant lots—was rational, but with a vengeance, and a similar vengeance lurking in practically every project of the planned economy brought about the downfall of the Soviet system.

Orchards under Communism had no chance, but in all fairness let us concede that they are antique by their very nature. Only the passion of a gardener can delight in growing a great variety of trees, each producing a small crop of fruit whose taste pleases the gardener himself and a few connoisseurs. Market laws favor a few species that are easy to preserve and correspond to basic standards. In the orchards planted by my great-grandfather and renewed by his successors, I knew the kinds of apples and pears whose very names pronounced by me later sounded exotic.
Related posts: Arboricide and Matricide; The Sacrilegious Axe; Arboricide on the Wayne Ranch; The Woods of Bachycraigh; Papadendrion; Papadendrion Again; A Bewilderment of Birds; Ancient Protests Against Deforestation; Illustrations of Erysichthon; Prayer and Sacrifice to Accompany Tree Cutting; A Spirit Protects the Trees; St. Martin and the Pine Tree; The Geismar Oak; Bregalad's Lament; Petition of a Poplar; Cactus Ed and Arboricide; Views from the Center of Highgate Wood; Artaxerxes and Arboricide; When the Last Tree Falls; The Hamadryads of George Lane; Sorbs and Medlars; So Foul a Deed; Like Another Erysichthon; The Fate of Old Trees; Scandalous Misuse of the Globe; The Groves Are Down; Massacre; Executioners; Anagyrasian Spirit; Butchers of Our Poor Trees; Cruel Axes; Odi et Amo; Kentucky Chainsaw Massacre; Hornbeams; Protection of Sacred Groves; Lex Luci Spoletina; Turullius and the Grove of Asclepius; Caesarian Section; Death of a Noble Pine; Two Yew Trees in Chilthorne, Somerset; The Fate of the Shrubbery at Weston; The Trees Are Down; Hornbeams; Sad Ravages in the Woods; Strokes of Havoc; Maltreatment of Trees; Arboricide; An Impious Lumberjack; Erysichthon in Ovid; Erysichthon in Callimachus; Vandalism.

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