….of happier times.
Like an aged apple, today I feel truly rotten; for here marks the tragic second anniversary of the death of my wonderful sister, Melissa. Unfailingly loved by all who knew her, this cheerful, generous, warm woman’s infectious laughter still echoes in the minds of her friends, family & colleagues; her effervescent smile there with every burst of sunshine after rain.
It seems so unfair, somehow; that on the day that Melissa died…. gorgeous, golden, shards of sunlight callously pierced our naïvely sweet valley morn with a benignly soporific warmth; whilst shrieking swallow advocates whirled in ecstatic dance beneath the blue summer sky as apple trees sobbed ripe fruit from every overburdened orchard bough.
And that sharp, shocking, revelation which starkly stated my sister no longer lived, I shall never forget:
….standing there in solitude, whilst a stream of apple-soft sunlight wafted through the small, deep-set window at the back of our ancient galley kitchen….the enticingly alluring scent of our myriad fruit trees drifting gently through the honey-warm windows whilst I wrapped apples with loving care, for their bitter-cold winter storage.
With each gentle, loving, fold of leafed-through paper, wafts a wistfully-perfumed reminder of summer meadows with every crisp bite; or a ray of sunshine with every sticky spoonful of apple sauce served over a hearty joint of succulent roast pork from our pigs; & a warming glow from every last slice or greedily polished-off mouthful of steamingly delicious orchard pie, cinnamon-spiced crumble or golden-baked & gorgeously thick-skinned, plump ‘cookers’.
Thus each & every apple I taste – sweet, tangy or (dare I say) tart, reminds me of Our Lovely Melissa.
Because according to Norse mythology, the Aesir were kept forever immortal, by eating the golden apples of Iðunn; & in our own fairytales, Snow White choked on a tasty piece of apple which drifted her into an apparently eternal sleep. And according to one of my big sister’s favourite legends, King Arthur was transported to Afallon – the Isle of Apples – where he magically slumbers until Britain needs the might of his sword, once more. Even our darling Wild Lady Cat, Shaui, has been buried beneath the apple tree closest to the cottage Rayburn, so that she can toast her elegant feline toes throughout the long sleep which enwraps the little life of each & every one of us mere mortals.
So as I wander through the orchard, whether the trees’ knarled boughs are laid bare to the winter skies or frothed with a confetti of pink & white blossom; or hanging pendulous with their heavy burden of ripe aromatic fruit….
I think fondly of my sister: yet whilst my heart grieves sorely for the loss of that wonderful smile, so its’ heavy burden is eased with the gratitude of sharing her lovely life, & recalling the laughter & love she showered upon us all.
I pause, & use the beautiful ram’s-horn staff – her last gift to Tony before she died – to hook an apparently ripe fruit from the upper bough of one of our fruit trees. Delicious, memories…..
The apple proves bittersweet in taste….(I can hear Lissa laugh now – “are you suggesting I’m a tart?” she’d demand with that infectious chuckle). It is even now, as we mutually feel: bittersweet; just like all her friends & family’s raw memories: simply; too much, too soon, to speak of; & bitter are the sorrowful tears we shed for her loss. But so sweet, to have had the privilege to share our lives with with her.
But in that taste, her memory will forever linger for me, forever missing her….(& in an echo in my head, she lovingly chortles in reply “you old tart”).
….and for every tear which falls from our sorrow-creased cheeks, another apple thumps gently onto the soft orchard grass….this year and ever whilst I stand guardian of these trees, an abundant harvest.