The Apple Tree

The crabapple tree in the barnyard

” 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.

12 thoughts on “The Apple Tree

  1. That passage jumped out at me as well, it’s macabre as well as mesmerizing. I really enjoyed the book, got it based on Jon’s recommendation.

  2. That’s a really neat description and it’s amazing to think how nature keeps rejuvenating itself making new life from decomposing elements. I like the thought of my ashes feeding new life!

    Happy Birthday Maria!

  3. Daniel Mason’s words are hauntingly beautiful. His own creation narrative. May I grow in appreciation of a patch of woods as you have Maria, very thankful you posted it, think this might be my favorite post.

    1. I’m so glad it rang so true to you Sharon. There is another chapter in the book where he follows the journey of some seeds that come in on a boat. It is truly wonderful.

  4. Maria, so I clicked on your highlighted life everlasting. What a marvelous way to answer my blog as to the meaning of life everlasting. You are a creative creature and as I told my doctor who is trying to fix my broken parts, I am addicted to learning. And so are you. My arms reach out to you for a birthday hug. You are special. And I will see that book for the city child introducing a world they cannot imagine. Only your eyes would see it. Blessings with much love. veronica

    1. Veronica, I didn’t think of it until the words came to me as the perfect ones for what I was trying to say. Without your piece about it and your asking us to let you know what they meant to your readers, I don’t think I ever would have used those words. Now they are a part of my vocabulary too.

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