The apple tree on the west side of the Graff-Pinkert warehouse is having a big year. After over 30 years of failure, it has finally hit its stride. Yesterday, I ate one of its sweetish-tart apples as a late afternoon treat.
We built the Graff-Pinkert building over 35 years ago, and I planted the tree as a sapling right after we moved in. We gave it a boost this year by spraying in the spring to counter the nasty insects that have made the small amount of visible fruit inedible these many years. It stands a few feet away from a 40-foot ocean container, which flanks our driveway with its original mural that I commissioned 20 years ago adorning its side.
A picnic table sits a few feet away from both the tree and container. It is well used these days for lunch breaks and conversation.
The apple tree is a magnet for my attention these days. It feels like a symbol of my life and work.
The tree has wounds. One of the major branches, reaching west out of the trunk, is totally dead. For me, it is a reminder of the lateral anterior descending artery of my heart that was completely blocked exactly 13 years ago this week. This kind of blockage kills almost every person who suffers from it. Fortunately, I had enough peripheral circulation, developed most likely from a few thousand miles of morning runs over many years, to live long enough to have a successful quadruple bypass surgery.
The used machinery business has been a struggle, too, these last two decades as machining companies lost so many customers to China and other low-wage countries. The vitality in the turned parts industry faded. Computer work and services pulled so many talented people from businesses that had looked so appealing to post-World War II men and their children. Women and African Americans found the industry unattractive. Machine tools and the people who used them stayed alive like my apple tree, but neither pollinated or bore much fruit.
An apple tree usually requires another apple tree within 40 feet, even a crabapple tree will suffice, to blossom, pollinate, and bear fruit. Our closest crabapple tree is on the east side of the warehouse. The bees have seemed disinterested in doing their work, separated by a 20,000-square-foot warehouse plus 80 feet. No apples year after year. I forgot that the tree was an apple tree capable of giving beautiful tasty fruit.
Two years ago, I spotted a couple of apples. They were small and covered with black insect holes, but still apples. Last year we got an ugly bunch of apples, so, I vowed to spray in 2021. This year, spraying made all the difference. The bounty is remarkable, the tree has close to 100 apples, and they taste wonderful eaten right off the tree.
The resilience of the tree reminds me so much of the 2021 American economy. The vaccines, which defied the usual slowness of modern medicine to come up with effective new drugs, beat back the terror of last year’s COVID pandemic.
The economy roared back with growth America has not seen for many decades. Our machinery business thrived in a way I doubted I would ever see again. My family regrouped in Michigan with our four grandchildren, which we have not done for two years.
I don’t know what variety of apple we have outside my window, but I do know it tastes sensational and symbolizes resilience and the power to give abundantly in later life.
Every day I come to the plant, I check the apples. When my daughter Sarah drove me to Graff-Pinkert a few weeks ago, I insisted that she see the tree. She sampled a not quite ripe apple but loved its tart flavor.
In a few days, we will celebrate the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah, when eating apples and honey is a traditional ritual. This year the apples will be extra sweet.
Question: What’s your favorite apple? Why?