There’s an old Germanic fairy tale about a magical orchard belonging to a certain Prince in a far away land. It goes something like this: a girl with no hands (they were promised by her careless father to the Devil in exchange for riches) goes by moonlight to eat the fruit in this enchanted orchard. One day the Prince notices that some fruit is missing from his orchard. He decides to go with his bow and arrow at night and shoot whoever is pilfering his magic fruit. He sees the handless maiden reaching up with her graceful neck, biting and tearing the fruit off the stem with her teeth. He feels pity for the mutilated heroine and falls in love with her. He marries her and gives her silver hands (undoubtedly difficult to use). The Prince goes off to war, while he’s away the Princess with the silver hands gives birth. A letter is sent to the prince, but the Devil intercepts it and changes it to say that the Princess has given birth to a changeling. The Prince writes back saying he will love the child no matter his horridness. But again Beelzebub is up to his old tricks, he changes the Prince’s letter to say that the Princess and her child should be killed, and they should cut out her heart and show it to him upon his return. The Old Queen takes pity on the Princess. She kills a deer, and cuts out its heart to show the Prince upon his return. She urges the Princess to leave with her child. They go deep into the forest. An angel leads her to an old cottage, where she is able to live with her baby. The Prince figures out the mixup with the letters when he arrives home, expecting his wife and son, and being handed a bloody deer heart instead. He goes in search of his family. He sees the cottage, and the woman and her son, but she has hands and so he doesn’t recognize her. She immediately recognizes him and says, “my hands were restored to me because I had to care for myself and my son out here in the woods.” She did what she had to so she and her child would survive, and in doing so gained her independence. 

We have a miniature orchard behind our studio. I like to sit there when I’m taking breaks from music on an old rickety wooden picnic table. I think about what I’m working on, or let my mind wander, listening to the birds, watching the bees in the clover we planted as a cover crop. I’ve often recalled the image of the handless maiden stealing the magic fruit by moonlight when I’m sitting there. The trees are still young, but growing stronger and taller every year. We have apple, cherry, apricot, pear, quince and peach. It feels like a magical place, and watching the trees grow their leaves back every spring is like watching a magic trick being performed by Mother Nature before your very eyes. The blossoms in April are incredible, and if it’s a good year the blossoms make way for fruit. While eating a juicy peach in mid-summer, I can’t imagine the leaves turning golden and eventually falling in the cruel trick that is fall, the death card of nature’s birth/death/rebirth cycle. Watching the changes and growth in the orchard has cultivated a deeper connection with the seasons and creatures that inhabit the space. I’ve come to appreciate the seasons of my own life as they unfold in their own spiraling and sometimes surprising way. These meditations in the orchard influence my musical and creativity as well, giving me an appreciation for the seasons of my own creative process in a new way. Tending and fortifying the soil in the spring, watering and weeding, enjoying the fruit of my labor in summer. The eventual shock, and somber beauty of the leaves turning, and then falling as the snowflakes drift down. The pruning and cutting back of the dead wood to make way for new growth in the spring, heralded by pale pink and purple blossoms reminding me that there is always a rebirth after the death of winter.  

Heather Trost is a musician from Albuquerque, New Mexico. She plays violin and sings in the duo A Hawk and a Hacksaw with husband Jeremy Barnes. Her second full length solo record “Petrichor” has just been released by Third Man Records