Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Johnny Appleseed's Canoe

You can spot the slender withe 
that is the trunk of the young maple 
(just left of the main trunk) 
that is grows in the shelter of an old wild plum. 
The plum seems to be on its last pins, but serves 
to protect the young tree from windstorms and other hazards.
I see this sort of thing quite often walking about
on the place in northern Michigan.
This photo was taken last October;
I picked it to go with Johnny Appleseed's canoe.

Nurse Log

The biggest trees in woods will fall
and knock down lesser trees and lie
out level on the slope beneath
a gap that spoils a canopy.
The trunk then rots inside its hull
of bark and floats in leaves for half
a century, a fallen god,
a relic of fertility.
The carcass hollowed out will spill
rich compost from its shell and house
a bear or host a fox or skunk.
But as the giant molders down,
and seeds take root in mineraled rot,
new sprouts appear along its length
and soon a line of saplings claim
the breast of the old corpse that bears,
like Johnny Appleseed's canoe,
a trove of seedlings in the wild
to land them on the future's shore.

Robert Morgan

Terroir; poems by the author of Gap Creek,
Penguin Poets, 2013, page 4

When I was young, I loved the story of Johnny Appleseed! I was particularly fond of apple trees because there was one outside our back door in Scotia, New York. It had a low, stout horizontal branch that was perfect for sitting on and reading. My mother wanted me to be outdoors more and I wanted to read all the time and this seat worked out well for me until we moved to The Farm in 1950. Terroir was recently recommended as a book by a poet who praised the outdoors, and the poetry is very good indeed. But the idea of Johnny Appleseed's canoe is thrilling to me. I have tried to plant apples several times using apples that grow wild in Michigan, but so far without success. So I wonder, did he plant the seeds, bury the apples, did Johnny dig up and loosen the soil first? Did any of these apples acturally grow?? Questions, there are always questions!

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