City Apples

city flower

When you live in a big city--and after awhile--there’s a part of you that stops being shocked by things that might otherwise be considered out of the ordinary. A man singing in his underwear in Times Square becomes as unsurprising as the mustachioed gentleman on the subway next to you crooning along to an imaginary accordion. Before too long you learn to take little oddities in stride, but every once in awhile you spy something that makes you stop in your tracks. Last week I was walking back to my apartment along my usual route, when out of the corner of my eye I noticed an apple tree. I agree that an apple tree seems usual enough, but on this particular corner, in the front yard of this particular brownstone, the tree struck me as bizarrely out of place. Miraculous, even.

Looking skyward, the tree, which was heavy with ripening fruit, stood in stark relief against the cornice of a stately brownstone and a blue November sky.

Fruit trees themselves are not unusual in this neighborhood. Some people have written that the borough hosts a sort of microclimate that allows fig trees, and grapevines, and mulberry trees to flourish exceptionally in a place with seasons that might otherwise be too harsh. The trick lies in having access to the fruit. More often than not, these fruit-bearing trees are tucked into private alleys and gardens. Gated and fenced, the seasons pass and the trees fruit with only the owners or their neighbors taking notice or pleasure. Seeing a fruit tree in the tiny squares that pass as front yards here is rare, and this apple tree, which reached practically to the top of the second story, rarer still.

There isn’t much to relay about my encounter. I didn’t swipe one of the apples. The owner did not come out to invite me in for coffee and apple cake, I didn’t go on to uncover an entire hidden orchard, but the few moments of wonder I experienced as I gazed up into the apples was all that I needed. Just enough to jar me out of my usual routine, to pause and notice something outside of myself.