Apple trees are connection to the past

We spend, it seems, a lot of our thinking as adults on connections to our childhood. On the things we did. On the things our friends did. And on the things our parents did. And said. For sure, the things people said, they stick with us. Sometimes...

We spend, it seems, a lot of our thinking as adults on connections to our childhood. On the things we did. On the things our friends did. And on the things our parents did. And said. For sure, the things people said, they stick with us. Sometimes these various little rememberings of time long past pop out at us as were mowing the yard, or washing the dishes, or untangling a fishing reel, and then, suddenly, were connected once again to something back there. Blink. Just like that. A connection of this moment to another one long ago. Thats what makes us human, this collection of moments that we haul around with us.

I remember a service call a long time ago to a farm where an apple tree stood, its entire summer crop hanging forlornly frozen from its branches. That scene struck something inside me, some memory, some connection, some link to something important to me, even though it wasnt apparent at the time. Even though were a collection of moments, that doesnt necessarily mean we see the individual connections.

You have to understand, I have a lot of apple trees, way more than common sense says should be here. Sometimes, with all the work involved, the number of them seems crazy even to me. Then, the next spring, I plant some more.

Later on, back then, talking to my mother on the telephone and telling her this story of the frozen apples, she asked me if I as a child remembered her mother coming out to the farm in Iowa. If I remembered how her mother scolded her for having failed to pick the remaining few apples that still hung on the tree; if I remembered how her mother told her that those missed apples could have been for your children.

No, I replied, I dont remember. Then I thought to myself, but Ive got all these apple trees. Blink.


A friend, upon having been told of my plans to plant some more of them, asked me if I knew what a great surplus of apples there really was around here. Indeed, he wondered, what would I do with mine when so many were going for the asking.

Well, thats strange, I told him; grocery stores dont seem to have theirs priced like theres a surplus on the market. Even at half that price, I pick hundreds and hundreds of dollars of apples each fall. Besides, these so called phantom apples that are everywhere kind of disappear once pursued, almost like the conscious connection within us of how some moment sharply defines itself as a connection to the past.

Perhaps the explanation for my compulsion to plant more trees lies less in my past than in my parents. There is undoubtedly a large overlap between a childs collection of connections and his or her parents. I wasnt there for the Great Depression, when moms folks lost several sections of wheat land in the Dakotas; wasnt there when dad said you could see a mouse run through a hay windrow ten rods away during the drought years, so thin was the crop; and I wasnt there for the gas rationing and emotional turmoil of World War 2. But for every story I remember, I suspect there are hundreds I dont.

I am here, always connected, even with my childhood gone in the blink of an eye; my parents gone in the blink of an eye; my children grown in the blink of an eye; my life over half gone in another blink of an eye. Suddenly it is clear to me that, in just another blink, I will be with my ancestors and my children will be seeking connections in their past for their adult strivings.

I still dont fully understand this need for more trees, but I fully understand not understanding. Know that as you sow, so shall you reap. Rest in the knowledge that the pace of your tomorrows is measured not only by your efforts today, but by both you and your harvests daily growth, and by your connection to it.

So in the end, perhaps it is only our personal calendar of strivings that can grant each of us the peace of satisfaction in a job well met; that there is satisfaction in not only looking ahead to the result, but back at the toil.

And maybe Im making all this too complicated. Apple trees feel good. As they grow, as the seasons come and go, ones calendar slows down to match theirs. The pace becomes one of breaking dormancy each spring, slowly leafing out, wonderfully blossoming, and then the slow production of an apple. When in their midst, surrounded by their steady timeless progress, their time becomes mine, and I feel like I have a million blinks left.

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