‘All the trees are losing their leaves, and not one of them is worried.’
~ Donald Miller
People are prancing in the fruit trees with apple pole pickers. I named them apple catchers, but I was told these are giant knickers once used for harvesting in Herefordshire, which none of us are wearing, as far as I am aware. Apples of a dozen hues and varieties are sorted, collected in crates and laid beneath the pippins. Each crate is weighed and immortalised in ink to mark the abundance of the season.
So many bright souls, in their own unique dreams, mingle through the food forest. The birdsong crescendos to greet us. The artists’ bright canvases hang from orchard trees, dancing gently with the breeze. They sing a love song to the garden as the garden does to them, breathing more life into each other. The sun bathes our faces and pockets of the garden. Yellow leaves fall with all we have outgrown, returning to the earth; in gratitude, in reverence, in splendour.
I lie back in a bed of gold leaves, drinking in the sun and this richness. A train of puffy clouds drift their silver whispers across oil painting skies. The light pours iridescence through everything. Questions rise up from the earth; like will we remember to thank a tree each time we bite into an apple? Will we taste the star inside it and every day of summer sun in its nectar? Will we notice, really notice, how low these laden boughs bow towards us? Will we stop to remember the magic of a seed?
For the ancient Celts the apple was a symbol of love, illumination and fertility; and a gateway to the faerie realm. In folktale, we know it as the fruit of the Gods, the fruit of the underworld, the silver branch, the silver bough, the tree of love. Bards (poets) and Ovates (shamans) carried apple branches (with bronze, silver, or gold bells), called the Craobh Ciuil (Branch of Reason), as symbols of their ofﬁce.
The mystical isle of Avalon of the Arthurian Legends translates as ‘The Isle of Apples’. The Druid Merlin is said to have worked in a magical Apple Grove safeguarded by birds. He received the gift of prophecy from the Faerie Queen by consuming one of her magic apples.
The sacred Druid plant mistletoe often grows on apple trees, making it an especially revered tree of the ancient Celts. In the Irish Druid tradition, the silver bough is cut from a magical apple tree covered in silver apple-shaped bells. It plays a mystical tune that lulls people into a trance and carries them off to the underworld.
In The Voyage of Bran, a magical odyssey to the limits of reality, an otherworldly woman appears with a musical apple branch, entrancing Bran with wondrous tales of the faerie realm. He is so enraptured by this damsel with the magical apple branch, that he sets sail immediately for her enchanted shores, experiencing epic adventures on his journey.
In our adventure, the resident robin winks and flies away. Two little girls in fairy skirts have made friends and are playing in the otherworld of the garden. Edible flowers are picked, and a dozen varieties of salad. Laughter drifts on the sweet, earthy smell of stewing vegan curry swirling from the kitchen doorway. Apples are sliced and taken to the Red Shed to be shredded and poured through the presser. The cloudy, dark juice tingles on the tongue and sparkles ethereally in the body.
We gather on benches of the old times, fashioned of straw bales and wood planks. A table is laden with the offerings of the garden and the hearts of those who tend her. We bond with new people, learn from each other, feast and share and wonder. As the sun begins to sink, Graham is asked if the day was successful. A thought arrives on the air and another woman speaks it. “You just need to look at the smiles on the faces.”
Gayle Baird, Writer in Residence
The sky is curling at the edges ready to fold everything in on itself
Light pours through the leaves,
reflecting off the hill face
Butterflies bask in the early autumn sun
Leading me home,
where I drink from the well that never dries up
ready to start once again
To die to the clouds racing across the rolling arch of sky
and nestle back into the earth
Writer in Residence