Poetry and Art · Power Of Symbols · Uncategorized

Old Apple Trees: Vigor In Old Age

Apple tree in bloom
Apple tree in bloom

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

Poetry and Art · Uncategorized

“There’s A Certain Slant Of Light”

You’re probably noticing about now the lengthening daylight hours. I know I am. But we have several more weeks of winter in northwest Pennsylvania. I love winter, but after the particularly brutal one of 2013-14 I admit I look forward to driving to work on I-79 without my hands gripping the steering wheel, flashers on at 45 mph, finding my way through blowing snow.

But along with the increased daylight, I also notice its different quality. The light from its lower position in the sky builds in quality from low intensity to a higher position and higher intensity. The process quickens my blood more than the momentary glimpse of a robin, as welcome as that is.

Roman Mosaic: The Four Seasons
Roman Mosaic: The Four Seasons. wikipedia image

Emily Dickinson’s line There’s a certain slant of light comes to mind often because she was writing about the winter afternoon sun.  But the rest of that poem does not look forward but inward. The sun doesn’t signal a new season in nature, but rather unexpectedly (a common occurrence in Dickinson) brings “heavenly hurt” that drives us to reexamine our priorities and attitudes

We can find no scar,/But internal difference/ Where the meanings are.

Has the sun become something to be feared? Only if we don’t want to look within. Some “heavenly hurt” can cause us to look for and find, changes in our internal meanings.  Hopefully we can welcome “that certain slant of light” for what God purposes through it, both externally and internally.