A year in the life of an apple tree

by Danielle Charles

There are two apple trees in our backyard – gnarled and weathered as apple trees should be – standing alone with their feet in the blackberry thorns and goldenrod down. I cannot say how they came to be there – perhaps they are a last remaining relic of an old orchard that might have stood here in a different time – or maybe they were wild trees sprung up from an apple core some rough and weathered pioneer tossed into the woodlands long ago, and no one has since had the heart to cut them down.  I can only imagine. But somehow, these two lone trees came to be, standing like sentinels in the backyard of this little cabin on the mountain, and their sight has become to me one that is so intimately tied with a feeling of home.

Andy Goldsworthy, one of my favorite artists, has said that you can’t really know something until you’ve seen it transformed by change. You must see it in all the angles of light and shadow provided for by time. You must see it in wind and in rain, under a blanket of snow, in the gentle light of spring, in the hazy heat of late summer, in the crisp cool of an autumn day. You must witness it in twilight and at sunrise, in thunderstorms and under the light of the moon and stars. Only then do you get a glimpse of the spirit lurking underneath. Only then do you begin to understand it.

Last year, I set out to observe these apple trees who I have belonged to these past few years as part of the Tree Year Project and I have witnessed them in all the cloaks that the year has dressed them with. I have seen them in the misty and cool moments of early spring, when they are all bark and moss and full of a sleepy melancholy charm:

 I have seen them when the gentle hand of spring has decorated their boughs with a garland of flowers and the vivid lime of new spring leaves:

I have seen them at the end of summer, when their boughs were weighted with tiny green and blushing apples, small but sweet gifts to gather on warm September afternoons:

I have seen them in the heavy gray clouds of winter, standing sleepily under the falling snow that collects upon their branches and their last withering fruits:                                             

 And I have seen them return again from winter’s slumber to the place I knew them first – the first signs of life breaking out the tips of their bare grey branches in the warmth of early spring:


And I have just begun to know them.