In the UK, lockdown is easing, the trees are blossoming and I know I should be celebrating. Yet instead I find myself remembering – a life without restrictions, events that didn’t happen and friends who are no longer with us. Amidst the optimism for what might lie ahead, there is grieving to be done.
Here is a poem that I shared with a friend who passed away recently. It might have been the steroids talking, but she liked it – so I hope you will too. Even when she was busy with the hard work of dying, she was full of joy and in love with the world. And with good reason. For all that this world is difficult and challenging, it is a thing of beauty. And that is worth remembering.
Our Apple Tree
In our garden is a space that holds
The memory of an apple tree. As ancient as the farm,
In spring, it pushed clematis to the sky,
Flowers tumbling pink into white blossom.
Nodding at the heavy, scrambling vine,
The old man warned,
‘See here, it’ll be the tree or that climber…’
Come summer, we swung a hammock in the shade
While little birds picked insects from scored bark.
Warmed by autumn’s ripening spell,
The tree turned magician,
Conjuring apples out of earth,
And a single speckled fieldfare visited
To feast drunkenly on fallen fruit;
Witnessed by our cat, too lazy to hunt the bird.
Our neighbour said, ‘Tie poison round the trunk
To stop the codling moth from climbing.’
In winter’s grey, the apple tree unfolded in stark fractals,
Each branch slick-silvered by the rain, and
Boughs bent, thick with sleeping energy;
The fellow next door said nothing,
Stayed at home by his hearth.
Then the day came when I returned to find it gone;
The shock stopped me in my tracks.
Toppled by the vine’s weight and,
Underground, white rot,
The tree had fallen silently
And rested, uprooted, against our garden wall.
We chopped it into firewood, as the old man suggested.
The following year, five thin shoots appeared –
With apple leaves unfurling.