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Saturday, February 25, 2012

A is for Apple

Gerritt Vandersyde - Once Upon a Time Magazine Cover  (1969)

If I had to choose a symbol to represent the books and illustrations that enriched my childhood I would pick an apple tree.

In my case it is perhaps not as obvious a choice as it sounds.  I was born and raised in a sub tropical region of Africa. My roots and a part of my soul will undoubtedly always belong to that continent.

The majority of the books I devoured so hungrily, however, came from England.  So although my physical location was African, the landscape of my imagination where I conjured up whole new worlds of my own was typically English in character.  

Apple trees adorned the pages of my earliest memories.

When I started to draw, my first attempts at art were very predictable - stereotype symmetrical houses flanked by apple trees with dark green foliage and bright red fruit.  Daisy style flowers grew in the garden and the whole scene was watched over by a large and smiling sun.

I don't think any of these artistic efforts still exist, but I can remember drawing and colouring them very clearly.

Possibly my favourite books from early childhood were the Jack and Jill annuals that I was given as a Christmas present by my grandparents each year.  I still have them and I treasure them greatly.

Inscription inside the cover of the 1966 Annual

The next two pictures are from a story in the 1966 annual called (unsurprisingly) 'The Apple Party'.

Jack and Jill Annual 1966

Jack and Jill Annual 1966

Lucas Cranach - The Tree of Knowledge

Apple trees provide a thread that run throughout Western civilisation - from the Garden of Eden to the sun-washed red bricks of Elizabethan walled gardens.

Sir Isaac Newton is said to have first thought of the Universal Law of Gravity after an apple fell on his head.

In American folklore the story of George Washington cutting down the cherry tree is sometimes substituted by an apple tree.  It is widely known that pruning apple trees was one of his favourite hobbies.

And in Arthurian legend, the dying king is taken to Avalon - the mystical Apple Island where he waits as the Once and Future King until the hour of his country's greatest need.  (An earlier post Delightful Dragons also touches on this theme.)

James Archer - The Death of King Arthur
In children's literature my favourite artist Ron Embleton illustrated a story called 'The Magic Apples' for Once Upon a Time Magazine in 1971.  Although I love all his work (as past posts will testify), the stories he illustrated with a Nordic theme are definitely those that appeal to me the most.

Ron Embleton - The Magic Apples
Perhaps the most famous apple in any children's story has to be this one from Snow White, immortalised in Walt Disney's version of the tale.

Walt Disney - Snow White

Undoubtedly the most magnificent apple tree I have ever seen belonged to an elderly neighbour when we lived in our previous home.  I think our gardens were originally part of a much older orchard - we had apples trees planted in a straight row, separated by our boundary walls.

When our neighbour died her house was sold to a young couple.  It became apparent straight away that nothing was to remain.  The cottage was demolished and her garden destroyed to make way for a new and soulless dwelling that reminded me of a dental surgery.

Knowing the apple tree had only one last season left I took photographs of it in its final burst of glory.  It was almost as though the tree knew it had this one last moment to shine - I have never seen the blossoms look as lovely and when autumn came it was laden with a glorious harvest of fruit that hung on its branches like shimmering golden globes.

Apple Blossom from that Last Year
Then one day the tree was cut down without a thought, leaving an empty place in an action I felt like a physical blow.  I found it hard to believe something that had survived and given pleasure since long before I was born could be destroyed so casually.       

Now Just a Magnificent Memory 

Last year I included some pictures of the apples and pears that grow in the garden where we live now.  This is one of the photos I chose to post at the time.


Megan said...

I love apple trees! And you're so right - they are so reflective of childhood stories!

Megan @ Storybook Love Affair

barbara said...

I have a dread of electric saws because it usually means something is about to be destroyed. Our new neighbours moved in and set about cutting everything down, there used to be a glorious oak tree, but that was the first to go. Why do people buy gardens with trees if they are only going to cut them down? I enjoyed your post very much but feel very sad about the apple trees. I love the Gerritt Vandersyde - Once Upon a Time Magazine Cover.

Sharon's Sunlit Memories said...

Hi Barbara - There is something very sacrilegious about cutting down an oak tree - especially if it is a venerable old one. I don't understand people like that either, especially when they maintain they are improving a property.

This is also one of my favourite Gerritt Vandersyde paintings - I've held it back for this post especially as I thought it went with the apple theme so well.

CraveCute said...

Just back from my vacation and catching up! Beautiful post Sharon. I am a plant nut and love trees of all kinds too! I love apple trees for all they give us, beauty, fragrance and fruit! I cried the day they cut three of our large elm trees down, they were dying of "dutch elm" disease. We also have neighbors that are year by year cutting everything down. :(

Tatjana Parkacheva said...

Beautiful post.

Regards and best wishes

Ewa said...

can't wait for this year apple blossom :))

AliciaArtShop said...

Wonderful post! You write very well. Apple blossoms are a favorite of mine ... so beautiful!

Sharon's Sunlit Memories said...

Thanks to everyone for all the lovely comments and compliments!


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