by Kari Diane Pike
It snowed in the mountains of Northern Utah last night. Friends posted stunning photos of those snow-capped peaks and talked about putting away lawn mowers and bringing their snow blowers out of hibernation. I'm just a little bit jealous.
I love autumn. Crunchy leaves under my feet, the first morning you get up and see your breath when you step out the door and the way the first frost begins the mad frenzy to bring in apple and pumpkin crops, and replenish the woodpile for those cozy winter firesides (accompanied by the cider and pumpkin spice everything one makes from the harvest, of course).
I miss autumn.
This pondering brought back memories of a certain apple tree that grew in our yard in Utah. We actually had six apple trees, but while five of the trees grew in the level, cultivated yard, the sixth tree clung to a steep, rocky incline along the edge of the property. When we first moved into that home, I complained all summer about pulling weeds from between those rocks and trying to prune and care for that apple tree. I asked around, "Who in their right mind would plant a tree on the side of a hill and surround it with rocks?" It was nearly impossible to safely set a ladder up and have access to the fruit on that tree.
Then autumn came and with it the first frost--and my first bite of an apple from that ornery tree. The creamy white flesh snapped between my teeth. The sweet-tart juice dripped down my chin. The fresh apple scent brought visions of apple tarts, applesauce, and hot caramel apple cider. Yeah, it was that good.
I had so many apples one year, I posted several recipes and uses for apples on my very neglected personal blog. You can find them here if you are looking for ideas for some yummy apple treats. Anyway, all of these memories got me to thinking about that tree and why, of all the trees in the yard, that one had the best tasting fruit.
Let me divert a little bit first:
A couple of days ago I had a conversation with a gentleman who had lived in South America for a few years. We talked about climate and rainfall and growing things. He mentioned how the availability of water and the rich soil in some areas create conditions that allow companies to produce pine trees in half the time it takes to grow them in the United States. Instead of the usual 30 - 45 years, they can grow and harvest pine trees for lumber in as little as 15 years. They export more than 90% of their lumber to Japan. Amazing!
There is a downfall though. The wood from those fast-growing trees doesn't start forming heartwood (the dense, disease resistant, dead wood that forms as the new sapwood takes its place) until the tree is almost fifteen years old and ready to harvest. While the strength of the wood is sufficient for building purposes, it's not quite as dense or strong as the pine trees grown in more challenging climates.
Can you see where I'm headed with this?! Adversity, time, patience, and effort. Could those be the reason that little apple tree produced such desirable apples? I learned something else, too. That crazy tree volunteered to grow in that rocky hillside. No one could tell me the variety of the apple tree because a young child had planted seeds from an apple his/her mom gave him for a snack one day. I can't help but ponder on the faith and hope and love that went into planting the seed that grew into that tree. Do you remember how magical growing things from a seed appeared to you when you were a child?
I never get tired of watching things grow. Witnessing life multiply and replenish testifies to me that there is a God in heaven who loves me and watches over me. I am grateful for the lessons I learn along the way. The Granny Smith and Red and Golden Delicious apple trees in my yard all did well. With the advantage of fertilized, aerated, and irrigated soil, they blessed our family with an abundance of good quality fruit. But that little tree on the rocky hillside had the best tasting apples of all. Was it because the tree had to work a little harder? Was it because I had to put more thought and effort into finding ways to pick the fruit? Or was it the love and hope with which the seed was planted? Maybe it was a combination of all of the above.
I'm thinking about all this and how it can be applied to my writing. I can be patient and keep practicing and working at my craft. I can learn from my mistakes and think a little deeper, drawing from the well of experience my ANWA and other writer friends have to offer. The challenges I face not only make me stronger, they give me things to write about--like how the fruit that takes the most effort to harvest usually tastes the sweetest.
Life is magnificent!