[Note: Parts I and II appear below]
A gray mist obscures the woods, and the trees encircling our property appear arrow-straight and somber as mourners at a funeral. My view from the bathroom window takes in the full breadth of the yard, from the swamp to the stone walls bordering the abandoned road. It is open and coldly bare. A lone chickadee hops onto the shed roof from the protective boughs of a hemlock. Her head swivels, inquisitive, confused. Too exposed! She retreats to the safety of the hemlock.
Cut flush with the farthest peak of the roof is the stump of the apple, her sawdust strewn like bird seed on the asphalt shingles. Clearly she was gone long before Chris came to take her. Only the merest ring of bark circles the dark tunnel rotted to her core. Chris reported that his co-worker was so anxious about the extent of the rot that he refused to climb her. We’re lucky she was able to hold her limbs steady above our house through last week’s high winds.
The cut was long delayed and I’d said good-bye many times, standing at the window, treasuring close-up glimpses of jays and titmice, the cocking of their heads and the fluffing of feathers with a quick pecking groom. We have loved this view into the life of our tree and her visitors.
Dave and I went out today to salvage some pieces from the brush heap of her twigs and branches; I will use some boughs as the bodies of Christmas Santas for Tucker and Casey. Our friend Phil also suggested that we use others to stoke the fireplace and when Dave smokes fish. “There’s nothing like the smell of apple wood,” he promised.
So, the apple will remain with us, lending solidity to a Santa Claus, a fresh smoky taste to Dave’s fish, and in aromatic wisps as we sit cozily by the fire. But I will miss her in the springtime when a cloud of pink blossoms bustling with busy songbirds no longer shades our window.