Monday, October 31, 2016

The Apple Tree

Ava, age 9, that first fall
It thrills me to look out my old kitchen window and see ducks feasting on wormy apples under an apple tree planted by someone else, sometime else. I long to know the story of the apple tree. It's trunk and limbs and branches are bent with years of the strong winds so prevalent on this hilltop farm. They reach for the sun which never reaches quite high enough long enough to sustain a growth of erect, correct posture for this tree. We wore dresses under our winter coats and danced around it two winters ago, my girls and I, at night, with the moon shining just enough to illuminate that old tree as if it were mystical. I can hear the crunch of our boots on the icy snow and see our breath and hear our laughter still. Wild. Free. I was a girl again for just a moment. The year we moved here, marked with much fear and doubt and backbreaking work, questioning and wondering, that year, this old apple tree brought up from somewhere deep within herself an abundance of perfect, large red green apples. Baskets full. Like a housewarming gift. It must've wore her out to do it, because we haven't had a harvest near as grand since. But that fall was marked with sauces and pies and crisps and cakes and children always with an apple in hand munching away. It was a gift. It started to feel like home. I don't worship trees. But I worship the God who made the apple trees and the animals and people who get to really experience them, lives wild and strong and productive and those also bent and weak and spent.

In front of the old apple tree, the evening before delivering our eight baby

The old apple tree. And that following spring on a dark and rainy day, I was heavy with child and smack dab and elbow deep in the middle of dinner preparations when I looked out and saw our 3 pigs under that tree eating what winter freeze and spring thaw and 6 children had left of those fall apples. I brushed the hair out of my face and sighed a very pregnant sigh and resigned myself to having to lure those porcinds back into the pen they broke out of, and right in the middle of dinner prep (which is a big deal when you're working to feed a small army). At that moment once again (for there had already been many, and many to follow) I was disgustedly overwhelmed and completely in love with this lifestyle I've chosen. No, what I mean to say is this lifestyle that had chosen me. In how many lives are there memories made of being 8 months pregnant and wrangling 900 lb of bacon back to where it belongs? I did. And while I'd like to say it went smoothly, I have a small rememberance of the slightest hint of terror I might have felt when, after retrieving a bucket of grain as a means to lure the pigs, and after the pigs realized just what said bucket in my hand held, they literally started galloping towards me at a rate alarming for a being of such heft. Realizing that standing there waiting for them to reach me might be a tad suicidal, I turned tail and ran (at not such an alarming speed, considering the heft of my state) towards their pen and when I got close and the pigs were about to overtake me, I flung the grain,  blue bucket flying through the air and all, into their pasture and to my relief they skirted around me (still galloping) and into the paddock and began to attack the grain covered ground with their mighty snouts, grunting feverishly although from the exercise or for the grain I cannot tell you.

This year the apples were mishapen, wormy, small. The ducks don't mind them. And unlike the pigs of that first year (for there haven't been any more), they are free to roam the farm picking up whatever might suit their fancy. I don't know what happened to my apple tree, but I mean to look into it. We'll prune her back good in an effort to conserve and strengthen what goodness might be left. Perhaps she'll grow strong again. Last year, her mate, the only other apple tree- small and weak and unproductive not 10 yards away, fell to a storm. All that remains of it is a stump that's been cut flush to the ground so as not to catch a lawnmower blade.
Anyway, I love to look out my old kitchen window at my apple tree. I love that after 3 short years of watching her blossom brilliant pink and fragrant in the spring, verdant and (inconsistently) fruitful through the summer and fall,  die off brittle and cold and brown to the winter chill, and magically come to life in the spring again, I love that she stirs such emotions in me as I look at her and remember. I'd love a small orchard full. Perhaps someday I will. 
I think Garrett said it best 4 years ago: