Not many people would think of a tree when speaking of faith, but I look at many things differently than most people.
Many years ago, following a failed marriage, I returned to my parents’ home in the country. About ten acres of trees, yards, house, and barn were nestled between two hills in western New York. Because we were all “dog people,” a kennel had been erected quite a distance from the house. It was a perfect spot, level, and large enough to maintain a building and kennel runs on the end and one side. Shading the runs and part of the building was an enormous apple tree. Every fall we harvested apples and made pies, cobblers and applesauce.
It was June when I returned, months before the fruit would be ripe, but one thing I did was routinely check the tree and the crop. Everything looked fine. The branches spread protectively over the runs and hundreds of apples danced in the sunlight with promises of delicious goodies yet to come.
Checking the tree was a ritual that I performed eagerly and often. As fall neared, I checked the tree daily, eager for the first ripe products of this perfect design of nature.
Year followed year as the tree continued to outperform itself. I don’t know how old the tree was but judging by its size, it was mature when we first saw it when my parents bought this property years before. Like the spectacular sunrises over the eastern hill, our apple tree seemed fated to continue its annual spring and fall dramatic displays of color until the end of time..
One spring seemed to come earlier than usual. The snow disappeared and almost overnight the grass became green and the smell of cooking maple sap filled the air. That was the spring that the apple tree fulfilled its destiny. Millions of tiny red and white blossoms covered the tree. The slightest breeze would create a colorful rainfall. Pictures could not do justice to the magnificence of this tree, but, because God blessed me with the ability to visualize, I can still see the tree that spring. Tall pines formed a dark green backdrop while the sun played on everything, especially the petals as they floated downward. I knew I was witnessing the last rebirth of this astonishing harbinger of spring.
As the year progressed, I watched the tree vainly attempt one last crop of big, red, juicy apples. As fall bore down, the tree seemed to sag as though it no longer had the strength to stand proudly erect. Beneath its limbs was a carpet of green apples, quickly turning brown. The apples that were still on the tree were spotted with rot and destined to join their mates.
That was the fall that dad started to go downhill, rapidly succumbing to disease and age. Neither the apple tree nor my father survived the winter.
Now in my autumn, having survived open-heart surgery, I face the possibility of cancer surgery, but the image of that dazzling tree continues to give rebirth to my optimistic nature. Now I can recognize the magnitude of God’s gift so long ago, a gift of faith in the form of an old apple tree.