Friday, August 11, 2017


Mark Shirley, "The Old Apple Orchard,
Wisbech St. Mary
," 2008

The old apple tree had never been tended
to (or hadn’t been, for decades)—branches
clotted with suckers almost big as its trunk,
tangled water-sprouts crowned with nests,
all of it too tall, stretched and reaching for
more sun. It welcomed us with a thousand
apples, but before we could say hello the
weight of what it bore sheared off a lateral
limb, smashed a neighbor’s fence. Our first
week in the cottage: what a windfall there
was, the ground covered with apples, bees
and wasps drunk on golden pomace rotting
in the August heat. So this year, we made a
careful reduction. Arborists with chainsaws
took down height and bulk; it’ll take another
two years, more young sawyers in the tree,
more chainsaw and pruning work, until the
tree fits itself better. This year, it’s resting—
only four apples made a windfall, each soft,
fermented, sticky. But the fifth I plucked off
a high branch, more green than gold, and it
came away easy to the pole even if not quite
ripe. A blessing given free; a promise to keep.

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