Monday, June 20, 2011

The Fruit Tree

   By the woodshed or the pump, or against the barn or the garden fence, the apple tree or pear tree connects the residence with the world of life and space that stretches out to woods and farms. We transfer our affections to it, as a half-way place between ourselves and our surroundings. It is the warder of the fields and monitor of the home. It is an outpost of the birds. It feels the first ray of morning sunshine. It proclaims every wind. It drips copiously in the rain. Its leaves play on the grass when the year goes down into the long night or winter. And in the spring its brightening twigs and swelling buds reveal the first pulse in the reviving earth. Every day of the year is in its fabric, and every essence of wind and sun and snapping frost is in its blossom and its fruit.
    I often wonder what must have been the loss of the child that had no fruit-tree to shelter it. There are no memories like the days under an old apple tree. Every bird of the field comes to it sooner or later. Perhaps a humming-bird once built on the top of a limb, and the marks of the old nest are still there. Strange insects are in its knots and wrinkles. The shades are very deep and cool under it. The sweet smells of spring are sweetest there. And the mystery of the fruit that comes out of a blossom is beyond all reckoning, the magic growing week by week until the green young balls show themselves gladly among the leaves. And who has not watched for the first red that comes on the side that hangs to the sun, and waited for the first fruit that was soft enough to yield to the thumb!

    And an orchard is only a family of fruit-trees. Orchards are also very real, but I hope that we do not lose the feeling of the tree. Our affections cling to trees, one by one; an d then the orchard becomes almost a sacred spot. A fruit tree in full load is one of the marvellous objects in nature. We cannot understand how the work is done, -how such abundance is produced and how such color and substance and flavor and faultless form are derived of the crude elements of soil and sunshine and air. It gives of itself out of all proportion to the care and affection that we bestow on it. It is a very sermon in liberality. It is a great thing when the making of orchards spreads rapidly, for it means not only commercial thrift but a growing appreciation of the tender and refreshing products of the earth. - L.H. Bailey, The Fruit-Garden, from the Background Book, The Garden Lover

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