Preparing to Grow Apples
The experience taught me a thing or two about people.
By D. Reid McCrary
Several of the terms and expressions in this article may be peculiar to the United States. But we believe readers will have little difficulty relating them to experiences wherever they happen to live in the world.—Editors
My wife and I wanted to put in a little orchard in our backyard. So we got out the catalogs and mulled over the virtues not only of the different types of fruit but also the different varieties of the same fruit. Because of the limited space of our property, however, we settled on just two apple trees and one plum tree.
Then the fun began.
From those garden books and catalogs we quickly became inundated with a multitude of mind-boggling choices. What at first had seemed an easy five-minute decision now turned into a maze of possibilities.
An Apple Is an Apple? Not Really.
We suddenly found ourselves with more than two dozen varieties of apples vying for our attention, with only a handful that we recognized—such as Red Delicious, Jonathan, and Winesap. But most of them we’d never heard of before—with names like Holland, North Spy, and Buckley Giant.
The choice was still simple enough, I thought. Just pick one we grew up with and enjoyed. But not so. We grew up quite ignorantly, I might add, in a (so-called) zone 17 area. But we were now living in a zone 1 area (or was it zone 2?). On top of that, we had to decide whether we wanted to eat our apples in June, July, August, or even later. In addition, whether we wanted red ones, dark red ones, green ones, green ones with red stripes, or red ones with green stripes. Should it be lunch-box size or big enough for two?
Then we had to decide whether we liked tart or sweet, crisp or “tender-fleshed.” Did we want to use them in pies for Sabbath dinner? For applesauce? Did we want dried apples for Christmas gifts? Or did we just want to eat our apples off the tree? What kind would keep over long winters in the basement?
In making our final selection, we had to consider almost a dozen different apple characteristics. They were all apples, of course, but they each took sunlight, water, and nutrients and rearranged them in a singular fashion, making each one unique in color, taste, use, etc. We’ve since learned that there are thousands of different varieties of apples!
And after we’d made our momentous (and enlightened) decision, we realized we hadn’t even gotten to the pears and plums.
For novice “orchardists,” this was not an easy decision. Even though it would have made the choices much easier to have had only one kind of apple, I’m thankful for the wide variety God offers us.
I Can See Better Now.
After that mind-boggling adventure through the gardening catalogs, I could understand more clearly than ever before the diversity of the “fruit of the Spirit” in Galatians 5:22, 23 (KJV). Says the apostle: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance….”
If we were to go to the heavenly Gardener’s catalog and peruse the varieties of love He has listed (not to mention joy, peace, patience, etc.), I believe we would find as many varieties as there are human beings who have ever lived.
In choosing apples, we had to consider climate zones, shape, size, taste, maturation dates, color, texture, resistance to disease, need of pollinators, and use. When I consider the “climate zones,” “flavor,” “resistance to disease,” “use,” etc., that make us who we are, the possible combinations seem limitless.
All of the following factors, plus many, many more, help shape our own personal uniqueness:
1. Climate Zones. What was the country in which you grew up? Was it democratic? Communist? Fascist? Did you live in a time of depression or affluence? Did you live in a big family or a small one? With a single parent or with both parents? Were they fighting parents or gentle parents? What kind of brothers and sisters did you have? Which child were you—the first? the middle? the last? Did you live in an abusive or in an accepting climate?
2. Flavor. Was your culture reserved or expressive? Did you grow up in a Christian home? Of what nationality are you? Did you grow up in a “racist” home or in a home that was the victim of racism or prejudice? What about your cultural ties? Your personality type? Your likes and dislikes, your temperament?
3. Resistance to Disease. What inherited or cultivated tendencies to evil do you have? With what defects were you born? What health problems did you inherit?
4. Use. What abilities, talents, and education did you receive?
Truly it takes heavenly computers to keep track of it all. This experience has helped me to realize that if I’m a transparent apple, who am I to tell a Granny Smith that she is too slow in maturing? Or if I’m a Gravenstein (whose flavor gets richer and fuller through heat and pressure, and is poured out into applesauce jars), how can I criticize a Red June, which, by nature, is good for fresh eating. How can I criticize it for being too “tender-fleshed” to take the heat? Or perhaps I’m a Jonathan that doesn’t need a pollinator. Does that give me the right to chastise a McIntosh just because it needs extra help?
Respecting Our Differences
It all reminds me of the chapter in Ministry of Healing, entitled “In Contact With Others.” It begins with these words (p. 483): “Every association of life calls for the exercise of self-control, forbearance, and sympathy. We differ so widely in disposition, habits, education, that our ways of looking at things vary. We judge differently. Our understanding of truth or our ideas in regard to the conduct of life are not in all respects the same. There are no two whose experience is alike in every particular. The trials of one are not the trials of another. The duties that one finds light are to another most difficult and perplexing.”
It also helps to give new meaning to the text from Psalm 87:6 (KJV): “The Lord shall count, when He writeth up the people, that this man was born there.”
As we live in the “orchards” of society, we all take the same sunlight, the same water, the same nutrients. But we rearrange them in a unique fashion to make us special expressions of the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
D. Reid McCrary and his wife, Marilyn, have retired after a career of team teaching in small schools in the North Pacific Union Conference. They live in the hills of Orofino, Idaho.