The Original Bramley Apple Tree is Dying

Farm raised apples on wooden background

The original Bramley apple tree is dying, tells me the news.

The years it has been dying can be measured in decades, maybe two, which seems an awfully long time and somewhat selfish. And is that even death? Isn’t death instantaneous? Or, if it’s not instantaneous, if protracted more than a year, surely that is called suffering. Holding on. I guess when you live to the ripe old age of 200 years—a feat over which the original Bramley apple tree is triumphant—perhaps the years you spend dying are unimportant. Or perhaps there is no apex between living and dying; they simply joust in circles until one wins, us applauding.

The original Bramley apple tree is dying, tells me the gardeners.

It has a particular kind of honey fungus. How scientific. Also, how … gentle? But I want the un-science. Where will it go? To fires, to earth, giving back what it took as we all do? But where will it go? Cradled by grace? Comforted by its old friend the delphiniums that once lived next to it, 150 years ago? It remains in gardens and greenhouses and tables in cuttings and propagations and memory, but where does it go?

As the original Bramley apple tree is dying, others are preparing.

People pay homage and respect and even write pretend obituaries for all the joy it’s brought and shared and, moreover, the things it witnessed, like Shakespeare. Well, not Shakespeare, but Dickens. This tree has witnessed Dickens, don’t we want to sit a few under it and have it tell of him? Before it goes, fully? Except, the original Bramley apple tree only speaks of yon delphiniums, sadly. But it still deserves to be listened to.

By now, the original Bramley apple tree is more dead than when I began writing this, except not yet dead.

How can something be more dead and yet not dead? Also, other people, people I just thought of, are more dead than when I began. They do not make news about it or hearken gardeners, nay even write me a note or nag me to come home for Thanksgiving other than with a small email telling me how great I am and do I remember when I was a child and used to climb apple trees? I think I’ll sit a few under them and have them tell of … well, anything they want. They deserve to be listened to, too.

The original Bramley apple tree no longer grows.

In fact, it un-grows; contracting into itself and what it once was. It exists in memories of those who loved it. Until they, too, un-grow and pass on. And then it exists on small labels in garden shops and in bushels of apples in the supermarket. Read and seen and enjoyed very deliberately. A circumstance more than which we could not ask for, in this life nor following it.


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