Right from its infancy, this apple tree showed signs of fragility. It was barely three years old when its main branch broke away from the trunk, opening a gaping wound on one side and leaving a scant few inches of bark to sustain and nourish the one branch that remained green. It would only have taken a light push on this branch to knock the tree down. I hesitated to do it because, beyond all expectations, the branch began to bear fruit. The patient therefore had the right to a reprieve, but with no treatment. The next violent storm would surely finish it off. However, its suspended sentence went on and on, and the apple tree, puny and sickly as ever, did nothing to beautify the little orchard whose most visible border it occupied. I had to steel myself to end its crazy existence, and I was about to do the deed when a voice, at once angry and compassionate, begged me to let this unwanted creature live.
Three or four years passed, during which time the bark of the handicapped tree had restored itself so well that it was able to resist a number of storms. Then came the summer of 2008, the summer of endless rain. Of all our apple trees, varied and normally generous, none produced good fruit. Yesterday’s dying tree, on the other hand, outdid itself. It was already the only one of its kind; it was now the only one to give us an abundance of great apples. In an orchard, a hardy member of a rare species is a precious gift.