A couple years ago I watched the growth of an old apple tree in my backyard with increasing concern. A large branch was threatening my neighbor’s home and the trunk was rotting. A tree guy sized up the job. We stood underneath and he looked it over, visualizing how much work would be involved and running up a price in his head. (You don’t want to know.)
I loved that old tree. Years before when it was in much better condition my contractor had tried to talk me into cutting it down. I wrote about our conversation. A poem:
They Stood In Its Shadow
and he pointed. “See, it’s growin’ wild.
Just cut it down. Gonna hit your ‘lectric line.
You don’t want to keep trampin’
on all those apples all summer.”
She looked up at the spreading limbs,
at the wooden swing swaying in the wind,
remembered the soft thump of falling fruit,
the brown squish under her feet,
sharing the lawn with hovering yellow jackets.
She heard seeds dropping pink pink on the cutting board,
felt the knife, the warm flesh in her hand,
smelled cooking apples and cinnamon.
Maybe someday she’d be old, gnarled, in somebody’s way.
“No, I think I’ll live with it for a while.”
Most years there were apples. Lots and lots. I stepped over and around the rotting fruit and omnipresent yellow jackets when I mowed and never got stung. I made lots of applesauce.
But now its issues couldn’t be ignored. The tree guy saw my hesitation and talked sense.
“Trees are like people,” he said kindly. “They grow old and their time comes.”
I gave the OK to cut ‘er down.
I hope I grow old with the strength and vigor of that old tree, that despite its issues, produced apples until the day it came down.
“They Stood In Its Shadow” appeared in Totem 2007, Gannon University Press