The Apple Orchard

Today is cold and snowy but I decide to take a short walk up the hill.  Apple trees line this section of the road.  A bountiful supply of apples lingers at the top of the trees  even now in the depth of winter.  The burnished copper of their skins make them appear ornamental but their attraction to a daily flock of cedar waxwings and a nighttime herd of deer attests to their appeal as a food source. 

Deer tracks connect one apple tree to the next.   A bird’s eye view reveals a web of trails impressed in the snow—their own map of the harvest.  The map will soon be erased by today’s snowfall but a new one will be drawn when the storm has passed. 

A rumpled circle surrounds each tree where deer have eaten apples from the ground and up into the branches as far as they can reach.  I expect that as winter progresses, snow and ice and wind will do their part to bring the rest to the ground providing a continued source of food when the deer need it most. 

But for now, the deer are tantalized like King Tantalus in the Greek myth whose punishment in Hades was to stand chin deep in a river surrounded by heavily laden fruit trees but never able to either quench his thirst or satiate his hunger.

At the top of the hill where I turn back there is an apple orchard planted over two hundred years ago by the settlers.   Back in those days, each tree had a name--delicious names that roll off the tongue like poetry; Peach, Sheep’s Nose, King David  and Seek-No-Further.  We no longer know their names.  Anonymous, the trees  have been ravaged by the weather throughout the centuries but they still produce.   Neighbors call to ask permission to gather the tiny red apples for pickles.  We pick several varieties in the fall to squeeze out delicious pesticide-free cider.  Deer, turkeys, bear, and birds hunker down here for food and shelter.  The old orchard is a feast for the eyes during all seasons. 

Whenever I see the orchard, I am reminded of Van Gogh’s paintings of the olive groves—there is a feeling   of humanness about the trees.     The branches of both grove and orchard seem to be grasping for the sun or the sky but remain rock steady on their earth bound roots.    Grove and orchard, each twisted and arthritic, possess a spry vitality.  Longing and happiness reside side by side in the tangle of gnarled trunks and quivering branches.  The apple trees were here long before Vincent Van Gogh was born and they will be here long after I die. 

And for some strange reason, that makes me feel good.