There is an old apple tree that I love to visit. It lives on a small bluff by the bay in South Freeport, in Winslow Park. I first met this tree when we went camping there a few summers ago, and now we always try to get that campsite near the apple tree. The tree is old and it is hollow. Or, as I like to say, it has an open heart. If I contort my body just a little, I can squeeze into the inside of it.
The tree has a history with human beings. There is a horseshoe embedded in the trunk, from some bygone caretaker. A horseshoe for luck.We go back in the autumn to gather the apples that fall around her. I have never seen anyone else collect them, and they make really wonderful applesauce. I have taken pictures of the tree in all seasons.
Henry David Thoreau wrote about becoming acquainted with particular trees in the woods where he built his hut at Walden Pond. There is something wonderful and profound about going deeper with a tree. I feel nurtured by my connection with the old apple tree.
Such connections can be created with any living being. The earth is so big and so full of life, that it would be impossible to know every species of flower or fruit or animal or bird. But something comes alive in us when we open our awareness to one other species, or to one special place, a place that becomes important because we are paying attention there. Because we are finite human beings, it is helpful to pay attention to the small things, in order to come to know the ultimate things.
If we seek to restore our relationship with the earth and all of nature, one practice to begin it is to restore our relationship with one species or one place. Thoreau became well acquainted with the few acres around his tiny hut at Walden Pond. We might become acquainted with the yard around our house, if we have a yard. Or if we live in an apartment, we might choose a spot in a city park, or a trail in a nearby woods, a beautiful tree, or a big rock.
What it takes is some time and attention. Sitting underneath the branches of my apple tree, gazing out at the water, sometimes I imagine what the apple tree has seen in its life. Sometimes I imagine being a tree, with roots in the ground, and branches swaying with the breeze. One year, the leaves on the seaward side were all blackened from the salt spray of a big nor’easter. What must it be like to bend into all kinds of weather? And of course, with trees, it is always good to lean up against them, and just be quiet.
Apple Tree Photos by Margy Dowzer. Horseshoe Photo by me.