On an Apple Tree

I had a pleasant job when I was 16 working in a small, private greenhouse and cut-flower garden.  Immersion in floral rainbows and thick greenery each day delighted me then as it does now.  Behind the greenhouse was a small yard of luxuriant, thin-bladed grass with a carefully pruned, standard size apple tree growing in the midst of it.  About twenty-five feet tall and perhaps thirty feet across, this robust tree provided cool summer shade to the yard.  I enjoyed taking my lunch breaks in this yard, leaning against the apple tree.

During my lunch break one day, having already eaten my sandwich, I took a notion to climb the apple tree.  It was early Summer and the apples were still quite tiny and the leaves were nearing their full flush and strength.  I do not remember exactly why I needed to climb that day since I usually rested during my break.  I do recall that I liked to peer into the canopy when resting against the tree trunk. I had marveled at the patterns of filtered green light diminishing daily until the shade was almost complete from the converging growth.  From this perspective the canopy formed a flawless fractal flower of greenery evenly spread by its living fan of twigs, branches, limbs, and trunk.  I believe I simply could not resist being up into the thickness of that beauty.

So up I climbed. The apple tree’s structure was so sound that I had no concern for damaging its body or mine.  Clambering higher into the branches than I had ever been before, I was surprised that my hundred and forty-five pounds was so readily supported by bunches of small branches, not just underfoot but around my legs, waist, and shoulders as well.  There was no lack of sturdy footholds or hand grips, so I kept heading for the underside of the canopy, just wanting to be in the green.

As my head reached into the leafy layer I could not see much.  I was still climbing though,  guided more by touch than sight.  Then, all at once, my head pressed through the shadowy leaf layer and I looked out amazed across a shining blanket of bright green faces of apple leaves.  My own face was just another smile in this new found sea of sunny apple joy.  With no intent beyond heading for beauty, I had subjected myself to an inescapable epiphany.  Something changed inside me.  This was enough.  I knew it.  I was undone and redone.  I recalled this moment in later years when in a window seat on a jumbo jet emerging through to the bright topside of the clouds.

But there was more.

The leafy canopy and its underlying thicket of twigs were so dense and steadying that I climbed a couple feet higher.  My hips and legs supported and balanced all round, I was protruding like a newborn dryad from the top of the tree, hands-free and clear to my waist above the leaves.  The leaves were so thick I could not see the ground, or my feet, or even the tops of my legs.  My hands caressed the luscious leafy landscape around me and I pressed down on it with my palms and found the foliage weight-bearing.  Pretty sure that it could support my whole body, I leaned forward and lay my upper body on this living bed of leaves.  Then, caught up in the overwhelming delight of this unfolding experience and inspired that the surface of the canopy supported my weight so well, I made the next decisive move. In a leap of faith, I lifted each of my legs from their hidden supports and with one fluid movement I rolled over and lay with my full body face up on the green.  Fully outstretched like da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man, I felt I was the measure of all things desirably human.  The earth, a blue-green spaceship, was hurtling through space and I had found my cockpit window-seat on a green cloud atop an apple tree.

The cloudless sky was sparkling blue.  Nestled into the leafiness like a fine feather mattress, there were no twigs poking me. I was perfectly comfortable. I turned my head but I could see only blue sky and green leaves. Nearby buildings and other trees were beyond my green horizon.  It seemed like I lay there forever, transported by the pure honest wonder of it, breathing the rich apple oxygen my nest exuded.  Somewhere inside me I am still there and must remain at all costs.  Words grow thin at this altitude. This was my truest-ever magic carpet ride and became for me a lasting measure of sublime pleasure.

I rested.

I checked my watch by habit.  It was work to go back to time, and it was time to go back to work.   At once I realized I was not quite sure how to get down from my transcendent perch.  I could not see the network of stems and limbs beneath me, but I could visualize them. I considered that one wrong move could land me on the grass with pain enough to eclipse my joy.  But carefully, by necessity, I wiggled first one leg and then the next down through the leafy loft.  My feet found support and I slowly sat up and turned around.  I had to spread the foliage apart some to see where to move next.  It was no trouble, though, and I found good footing from the fragile fringes down through the branches to larger limbs that lowered me gently to the ground.

That is what happened.  I had fully expected to learn someday that other folks have experiences like this, and that mine was not a delight so rare.  Now, so many years later, I have yet to hear of anything near to it. So I share it with you.

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6 Comments

Filed under On an Apple Tree

6 responses to “On an Apple Tree

  1. poeticgrin

    What I love about this is that the “you” in your tale, though you were 16, could be you at any age – at 8 or 81. What I hope is that whoever was there, at that perfect moment, would have climbed the tree just the same.

    Beautifully well-written and descriptive.

  2. What a fabulous story this is! Thanks for sharing it.

  3. Thanks, Bryan and Brad. It’s a true story and a fun one to tell.

  4. Classical story telling at it’s best. Beautifully controlled narrative with depth in the image and precision in the prose.

    I’m blushing. Thanks, Paul.

  5. Beautiful. I have always loved climbing trees. When I was a child, I spent a great deal of time in the mimosa trees in our yard. And how true this statement of yours rings for me, even now:

    “Somewhere inside me I am still there and must remain at all costs. “

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