Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree.
~ Martin Luther ~
An old friend gave a sigh of surrender and gave up Thursday afternoon – on the eve of Summer Solstice. Gravity, a deep wound, and a hollowing heart proved to be more than she could bear. She laid herself down in a swirling storm of wind and torrential rain.
Our neighbor often tells the story of how the tree leaned over, many years ago, in a severe storm. The man who had planted and cared for her enlisted the help of the neighbor’s husband. Together, they lifted her up and placed her roots back in to the earth. We would have done the same for her. However, that is not an option this time.
We will miss her…….
The pollinators will miss the profusion of food her blossoms offered up each Spring. The sparrows and the nuthatches and the tufted titmice will miss the protection of her densely interwoven branches. A whole host of wildlife, and our family dogs, will miss her imperfect, pocked, and wormy apples. The dogwood, the pecans, the crape myrtle, and the holly – her neighbors for 40-some years – will no doubt miss her presence.
I will miss her for all of the above and more……
But I will never forget the night, in late summer, about 5 or 6 years ago, looking out of the bedroom window and seeing a group of white-tailed deer, silhouetted against the silvery moonlit grass, dining upon her apples. I don’t know what it was that awakened me that night, and compelled me to rise and look out of the window. Maybe it was her, saying “Look! I have something to show you! Please don’t gather up my fallen apples and put them in the trash. For I have worked hard to produce them, and they are a bountiful feast for the deer and the opossum and the squirrel and the coyote.” I never raked up and disposed of a single fallen apple after that night.
Nor will I forget the sight of Ricky, a rescued German Shepherd Dog whom we had recently adopted, thoroughly enjoying one of life’s simple pleasures – snacking. I smile when I remember the sight of that sweet old arthritic German Shepherd – with worn down teeth – quietly sashaying through the dappled shade of the pecan tree, making his way to the apple tree, browsing through the fallen apples, selecting the perfect one, trotting back up into the shady front yard, and lying down to enjoy his selection – core, seeds, stem and all. A heartwarming simple pleasure for a sweet gentle boy who, a year earlier, had been left to starve by cruel stupid people who left him chained to the mobile home they had been evicted from – out in the middle of nowhere – without food or water.
And there is this…..
Thursday morning, hours before the storm arrived, I stood in the shade of the apple tree’s branches, somewhat reluctantly obliging our youngest dog while he rolled around and tossed and played with two small green apples he found lying in the grass. As I stood there, the words “Tell my story” presented themselves very clearly to me. And I thought “Yes, I should………I will.” Standing in that same spot on Friday morning, next to her snapped and broken trunk, I felt sad – my heart was heavy – and I felt like I too gave up, gave in, surrendered a little bit. I gave in to some things that have been weighing heavy on my mind and in my heart. And I gave up trying to figure it all out – fix it – see the positive – find the best solution. I reached out and rested my hand on her fine cool bark and told her, “We will miss you. And I surrendered a little bit today too.”
A little over a year ago, during a writing retreat, I wrote about my friend and our connection. I’ll locate that notebook and post the story here….soon. For, it seems, now is the time to tell the story of The Apple Tree and Me.