Fruit trees


We pretend that trees live forever, but they don’t. A botanist here at Brown told me once that most trees have a roughly human lifespan. I remember when, some years ago, two beautiful English oaks that had been planted to commemorate the First World War withered and died; they’d been planted side by side around 1920, so they lived into their nineties, which is pretty good.



I think sometimes about the fruit trees that grew around my childhood home. We had ancient apple trees – well, they looked ancient: they were completely covered with old man’s beard, and their branches were crooked and evil-looking, perfect for a spooky autumn night. They were Gravensteins, which seem to be fairly rare nowadays; they’re not beautiful apples and are often scabby, but they’re tasty and nice for pies. (Back in the 1980s, my mother told me that an old bear with gray fur on its chest would clamber through the fence on autumn evenings and sit with its back against the trunk of one of the Gravensteins, picking up fallen apples from the ground one by one and eating them.)



We also had pear trees, of an unknown variety. Also a lovely dwarf pie-cherry tree, that my father planted as a sapling around 1968, and that bore buckets of cherries for many years. Also a couple of Transparent apple trees, which reliably bore firm sweet/sour apples that were pale green when ripe. (Nobody here in New England has even heard of Transparent apples!)



But the most impressive of all was a gigantic Royal Anne cherry tree – at least thirty feet tall, perfectly shaped (you can see it toward the right-hand side of the photo above) – that grew on the edge of my father’s hayfield. Hundreds of birds (especially crows) went berserk in it every summer and fall, fighting over the fruit in the top brances.



I’m sure all these trees are dead now – either of old age, or because they were ripped out to make room for something else.



But I can picture them all very vividly, and with great fondness, even now.



I hope, in fifty years, somebody remembers me this fondly.




About Loren Williams
Gay, partnered, living in Providence, working at a local university. Loves: books, movies, TV. Comments and recriminations can be sent to

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