My Favorite Crabapple, My Oldest Friend

This tree gave me support when I was young; it held my fickle weight as I explored its airborne realms. I don’t know when I started climbing trees, but it was very early.

My strongest memory is less a narrative than a sensation, a deep warmth: acceptance. I could bend my body to match its limbs, laying myself along one of its many-turning trunks, and I felt acceptance. I felt welcome. I felt home.

The poor thing used to have a massive limb that grew parallel to the house, toward the viewer from the vantage in these pictures. This limb, now gone, was the spinal center of my experience of this tree. I could walk all along it, holding onto branches above my head for support. I don’t know what happened to this limb. Maybe it finally collapsed from its accumulated weight.

These moments in early spring used to be beyond spectacular, so much more incredible even than it was here (April 2021). This crabapple in particular is still quite striking, despite its many legitimate grievances; its mate across the front yard, whose furthest ends you can see to the left in the photo just above, is not doing nearly as well. It is actually rapidly falling apart, quite literally.

An inspection earlier this spring suggests that the unpictured mate has become host to a pest that got in from sloppily managed trimming wounds—as, for example, the jagged limb-end on the lowest branch off the trunk on the left in this picture, where a large portion of an older limb remains exposed and in fact unsealed. (My grandmother’s (ex-)boyfriend’s work, if memory serves.) Unfortunately my inspection of the pictured tree—my favorite crabapple, if not my favorite tree in the whole world, and my oldest animate friend on the planet—suggests that it is also in an earlier stage of pest invasion, and so it, too, will soon begin to fail entirely.

In the hope of saving it, I pulled out the grass in a circle around its trunk, and carefully mushed in different sedums I’ve planted around my grandma’s yard over the years, and bunches of the myrtle that now dominates all the flowerbeds that I’d once cleaned out for perennials. I’ve come to love the myrtle. I hope my friend likes it, as well.

If I’m recalling correctly, when I put in this new root-protecting bed around my crabapple friend, I sprinkled in mycorrhizae rather generously. I don’t know in practice if the mycorrhizae will do much for a tree if they’re introduced at the surface. I hope so, at least. My friend here will need all help available, maybe even more than exists, to survive in the Anthropocene.

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