Apple trees can make us feel good

We spend big pieces of our adult life making connections between what we are now and our childhood, hoping for an explanation and maybe a positive reason for the things we do and say.

We spend big pieces of our adult life making connections between what we are now and our childhood, hoping for an explanation and maybe a positive reason for the things we do and say.

I just planted more apple trees. Why. I already have forty or more, so, why.

A long time ago, I saw an apple tree with its entire early crop half hanging from the branches, half strewn on the ground, frozen. Wasted. I remember telling mom about this on the telephone, and she asked me if I remembered her mother visiting our farm when I was a child; if I remembered her mother scolding her for having failed to get those last three or four apples up there; how "those apples could have been for your children."

No. I don't consciously remember that, but could that be a connection? Perhaps the inclination to plant more and more trees lies less in my past than in my parents' past. I wasn't there when mom's folks lost several sections of wheat ground in the Dakotas during the depression.

I wasn't there when my father's father's grandfather first turned the prairie soil on the farm on which I was born in Iowa.


I wasn't there for the farm gas rationing and mental turmoil of World War II.

And I'm not there now. But as her son, I am both there, and I am here, here where my children were born and grown and gone in the blink of an eye. Life goes by much faster in the rear view mirror, it turns out. The chance to find answers goes by just as fast.

A friend, upon being told of my additional planting plans, asked me if I didn't know what a great surplus of apples there already was around here. Indeed, what would I do with mine when so many seemed to be around for the asking.

That's strange, I replied; grocery store apples don't seem to be priced like there's any great surplus--even at half their price, I've already picked hundreds of dollars of apples in my lifetime. Besides, I told him, these "phantom" apples to be had for the asking are like ghosts--they just don't materialize, and when they do, the reasons become quickly apparent. Trees that are not cared for don't fight off disease and insects well, and the apples look like it.

In this complicated, high-tech, pesticide and herbicide-ridden world in which we live, I have the great good fortune to be able to grow apples without those things, which means that your average grocery store apple, which was sprayed about a dozen times, compared to mine, not sprayed at all, comes in second.

Wait. In response to all those folks who bemoan the chemicals that come in grocery store produce, let me say this: If those chemicals are truly so bad, why does our average life span keep increasing year by year. Enough said. Worry about something else, like a nation that is 60-plus percent obese, when people are starving around the globe.

I like being able to grow something I can eat, and if I can do it with some benefit health-wise, more reason yet.

So why so many trees? In the end, perhaps it is growing something that can grant the peace of satisfaction that comes from nurturing that growth seven days a week, 24 hours a day, rather than eight-hour days worked for someone else. Just that difference alone might explain the human race's current unexplainable pursuit of self-destructiveness. So many people have lost the satisfaction of watching their garden grow.


Finally, maybe this all isn't so complicated. Maybe the bottom line is that apple trees--all lined up in a perfect row, each one imperfect in some way--make one feel good. Look at how different even the same kinds are, just like people.

As they struggle and grow, and as I watch them and work with them, my calendar slows down to match theirs. We need to slow our calendars down with something other than forty-hour work weeks and two weeks of vacation a year to look forward to. When I am in the midst of those individual trees, surrounded by their timeless progress, their time becomes mine. Time doesn't go by in a blink for a tree, and if I can share their time, I feel like I can blink a million million times.

And blink, and blink, and blink.

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