“Read between the lines. Then meet me in the silence if you can…”

May Sarton

I want to tell you about the woman buried under the apple tree. When she was a child, Averil used to climb the old tree, her nail-bitten hands clutching the sturdy branches, her honeyed braids brushing the rough bark.

She marveled at the tiny worlds colonizing the bark – forests of emerald moss, handfuls of fungus waving like black fingers, villages of powder-grey lichen teeming with ants and spiders and all manner of strange travelers.

Forests of Fingers

Forests of Fingers

All Manner of Travelers

All Manner of Travelers

My cousin Averil “traveled” at fifty.

Her sons dug a hole for her ashes under the beloved apple tree while I read from the Book of Isaiah:

“…to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve…to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair…”

My cousin was an unhappy and unwell person, prone to making despairing, unintelligible phone calls at three in the morning. But that is all I’ll say.

There are questions and mysteries surrounding her life and death, which I won’t share because families suffer secrets and allow for mysteries. If her descendants aren’t going to shake those branches, neither will I.

The Tree

The apple tree keeps watch over our family’s country home, guarding secrets, saving memories, honoring unlived dreams. I don’t know if my grandmother planted it in the forties when she bought Quiet Hills, or if it was already here.

The Apple Tree

The Apple Tree

“…a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor…”

The cellular structure of the tree holds the soft voice of my grandmother as she croons to one of her many long-haired cats, and the shared laughter of my mother and my Aunt Val as they garden together, never suspecting that Bunny will one day rest where they work.

We all called her Bunny.

The only one who called her Averil was her husband.

“…he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners…”


This morning an inch worm descends from the apple tree, hanging by a shimmering thread, bobbing its head and swaying in the breeze, a breeze I can’t feel but which causes his nubbly little feet to wriggle frantically for purchase.

A delicate creature on a delicate thread, ceaselessly buffeted by invisible currents.

Chickadees and titmice chip-chip and tee-tee at each other, hopping from branch to branch and knocking down tiny green apples, then swooping away to jostle for position at the birdbath.

The deck beneath the tree is littered with these baby apples. The strongest fruit still clings to the branches, though, dreaming of becoming autumn’s pies.

Autumn Dreams

Autumn Dreams

Bunny used to bake the apples into pies. She would imitate an old woman’s quavery voice – “Abigail,” she called herself — as the kitchen filled with the smell of warming cinnamon, and she shooed our fingers away from the sweet filling.

The apple tree holds Old Abigail’s voice. It holds Bunny’s childish giggle.

It guards her secrets. And its canopy softens the raindrops that fall upon her grave.

Related information:

Bible verses are from the Book of Isaiah, New International Version.

For more on the old apple tree, click here.

For more on the house, click here.