” It grows warmer, until the water that gathers in the hoof prints of the deer no longer freezes in the night. Now, in the place that was once the belly of the man who offered the apple to the woman, one of the apple seeds, sheltered in the shattered rib cage, breaks its coat, drops a root into the soil, and lifts a pair of pale-green cotyledons. A shoot rises, thickens, seeks the bars of light above it, and gently parts the fifth and sixth ribs that once guarded the dead mans meager heart.”
“The sapling grows through summer. By the end of August, it has eighteen leaves and is the same height as the haunches of a lynx. ” from North Woods by Daniel Mason
I don’t think I will every look at an apple tree the same again after reading Daniel Mason’s description of one that grows from the belly of dead man in his book North Woods.
The quote above is just a part of the description of the process of what becomes of the dead mans body and the apple seed he swallowed just before he died.
Mason writes about what should be awful, even horrifying, as so natural, so matter-of-factly beautiful, I found it sublime.
One of the reasons I believe that I felt so strongly when I read this is that since I began walking in our Orphaned Woods and really seeing what was in front of me, I know from personal experience what he is writing about. I am familiar with the trees and viburnum, I’ve seen the foam that gathers on the truck of the pine trees when it rains. I know how the sun touches certain small places to help sprout a seed. How the snow freezes and melts in the hoof print of a deer.
His descriptions and comparisons are all contained within this particular ecosystem. Which leaves me with the feeling of the circling round and round, the pattern of life, death, life, that I witness with each walk I take.
And, for me, the idea of my dead body literally being the place where a tree could sprout from brings me great comfort. It is my idea of heaven, of life everlasting.