“Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree. “
I recently came across this expression of the Reformer Martin Luther, who 500 years ago, shy only by 3 months, tacked up in public a list of declarations born of his illumination by Scripture on living by grace in Christ, in a place far from New Hampshire, in a very distinct time and culture from mine. He hoped in Christ, and clearly loved his apple trees, and, most likely, apples. An apple tree planted as living sign of that hope, an affirmation of his own, human, life. His thought touched me.
Not surprisingly, I thought of my own love of apple trees, born from my childhood experiences with them in New England–I used to climb into one great old one to read*– their beautiful shapes, their much-loved life cycle, and their crispy fruit, thought on planting them as emblems of passionate engagement with life and home, of affirmation and Christ’s hope, embracing even life’s perennial entwinement with loss.
And thought of one of my expressions about apples. I wrote this just as my dear John and I, newly married, were moving into our present home in New Hampshire, with all it held of joy and anticipation, love and life together, and pathos.
Because of a tree not planted yet, yet in a new love with you, already rooted,
I am writing the poem that must be written. How long did you say
It would be before a new apple bears, when I said I wanted apples in the yard of our own house that is not yet ours—
Longer than we might still live? Our own lifeseasons head into winter.
And forsythia, I had said, and lilacs. How many years would pass before we had our own
Lilacs to tumble over heavy crystal vases on our dark table? Forsythia
Takes three years to blossom, just as the eyes are about to despair
Of the sight of yellow after you’ve planted it.
And grapes. Concords, my archetypal New England Concords,
Vines covered with larger and larger serrated leaves trained on their trellis, season to season, with no fruit for five long years.
Taking whatever shade we could those years waiting by tulips, iris, herbs, and daffodils sprinkled through violets from blithe spirits there before us,
One of us could be gone. Red and yellow apples and fluffy lilacs could elude our eating and smelling together. Perhaps the blood of the eventual grape
Would flow unstoppably into the devastated tears of the one left behind.
Let’s plant apples anyway, plant grapevines and forsythia, Love. We’ll plant
And water apples
For John July 2009
Deanna Harrington Christiansen
[All Rights Reserved]
You may read more about “Plantings”, the book, and the companion music CD “Plantings” by composer and publisher Glen Aubrey , at www.deannachristiansen.com! *And imagine how I climbed into the big apple tree to read in the poem about the library, “An Honorable Dust”, in “Notes On a Flight Home”. Perhaps obtain copies for yourself.
Our apple trees here fruited in their first year, as we purchased them somewhat matured– analogous, come to think of it, to our love and marriage in our mid-sixties. This is our tenth season, and the apple trees’ third. Thanks be to God. We planted and watered as “our own lifeseasons headed into winter.”
Plant. Plant and water, anyway.
Copyright "Plantings, in Poetry, Essay, and Song", Creative Team publishing, San Diego, 2016 All Rights Reserved