A little magic to be found in apple trees

October 26, 2003|by JoEllen Barnhart

The mission was simple: Find an apple tree.

In Washington County? Why not try and find an igloo in Inuit country? You don't have to be a detective to track down an apple tree in our community. With orchards all around, an apple tree was easy pickin'.

The trick, though, is to find one with apples still in it. Uh-oh.

Why the search for the tree still bearing fruit? My niece was searching for just such a tree to fulfill her whim to climb an apple tree and pick some apples.

Where was she in September? We could have climbed all day, any day a month ago, picked apples until our hands had turned red delicious and probably would have been paid for it. No, in her mind, this was the day, near the end of October to go on this quest. What to do? All the orchards were looking bare by now. No grannies, no goldens, no reds, no galas, not even a decent crab left to snatch from its branch. We were stuck.


Then, it occurred to me. Aunt Deanie. Of course, she had two apple trees in her yard, and the harvest had been bountiful. She already had shared some of the apples with us. Besides, these trees were special. The trees were a gift many, many years ago from Aunt Deanie's brother when he planted them as tiny sticks.

He imagined that over time the trees would grow and stand strong and proud. Today, these trees bear not only fruit, but they foster the imagination of all the children who spent time nesting in their limbs.

On cool fall afternoons, all three of my sons, Andrew, Adam and Michael, love climbing the two apple trees in Aunt Deanie's back yard. They scale the highest limbs, until the call of Aunt Deanie urges them to retreat to a safer, sturdier branch. From any perch in those trees, my boys see as far as they could dream.

To children, these trees, which stand side by side, serve several purposes. The trees also provide the perfect end posts of a soccer goal or the uprights of a goal post through which to kick an extra point in a friendly football game. They are part of an obstacle course and the touch point of a relay race. During a game of tag, they are the safety zone.

So, we made our way to Aunt Deanie's back yard. My niece's little eyes surveyed the landscape and moved directly to the outstretched arms of the two apple trees in front of her. Scanning quickly, she spotted some prize apples. But, they dangled on limbs just out of reach. Undaunted, my niece shimmied her way up the stoutest branch she could find. With the help of the adults below, who were serving as spotters, she stretched and reached and finally plucked her first apple.

Soon, she gathered a small basketful of apples to go with her huge load of courage. Like the many children who have climbed the branches of these trees before her, she also sat quietly in the limbs, viewing the world from a different vantage and experiencing the wonder of nature.

Later that day, as we washed some of the bounty, we talked about how high she had to climb and how far she had to stretch. It was evident that the trees had made magic again. My niece discovered that climbing trees was more than just finding some apples to eat; it was to reach for something just beyond her fingertips.

Aunt Deanie was away when we visited and climbed her apple trees. She, Uncle Dick and cousin Rosella were on the Eastern Shore, making more magic in Martinak State Park. They were making apple butter from the apples in these trees for a seasonal festival, passing on quart-sized helpings of well-cooked apples, and sugar. But this apple butter is made with a special ingredient that only these trees could offer - imagination.

JoEllen Barnhart is assistant to the director for Frostburg State University's Hagerstown Center. She has three sons.

The Herald-Mail Articles