After a Noah's flood of a winter, the little trees in my orchard, which have stoically withstood three years of drought, have flourished and flowered and, some of them, begun to fruit. Barring the unforeseen disasters that seem to hit every home gardener, I may have apples, figs, and even a few more plums and apricots than last year -- and even mulberries. And a new novel is percolating in the back of my mind. I have written a few pages, mostly in the way of profiles of characters. Such is the triumph of hope over experience.