Every April I am beset by the same concern--that spring might not occur this year. The landscape looks forsaken, with hills, sky and forest forming a single gray meld, like the wash an artist paints on a canvas before the masterwork. My spirits ebb, as they did during an April snowfall when I first came to Maine 15 years ago. "Just wait," a neighbor counseled. "You'll wake up one morning and spring will just be here."
Andlo, on May 3 that year I awoke to a green so startling as to be almost electric, as if spring were simply a matter of flipping a switch. Hills, sky and forest revealed their purples, blues and green. Leaves had unfurled, goldfinches had arrived at the feeder and daffodils were fighting their way heavenward.
Then there was the old apple tree. It sits on an undeveloped lot in my neighborhood. It belongs to no one and therefore to everyone. The tree's dark twisted branches sprawl in unpruned abandon. Each spring it blossoms so profusely that the air becomes saturated with the aroma of apple. When I drive by with my windows rolled down, it gives me the feeling of moving in another element, like a kid on a water slide.
Until last year, I thought I was the only one aware of this tree. And then one day, in a fit of spring madness, I set out with pruner and lopper to remove a few errant branches. No sooner had I arrived under its boughs than neighbors opened their windows and stepped onto their porches. These were people I barely knew and seldom spoke to, but it was as if I had come unbidden into their personal gardens.
My mobile-home neighbor was the first to speak. "You're not cutting it down, are you?" Another neighbor winced as I lopped off a branch. "Don't kill it, now," he cautioned. Soon half the neighborhood had joined me under the apple arbor. It struck me that I had lived there for five years and only now was learning these people's names, what they did for a living and how they passed the winter. It was as if the old apple tree gathering us under its boughs for the dual purpose of acquaintanceship and shared wonder. I couldn't help recalling Robert Frost's words:
The trees that have it in their pent-up buds
To darken nature and be summer woods
One thaw led to another. Just the other day I saw one of my neighbors at the local store. He remarked how this recent winter had been especially long and lamented not having seen or spoken at length to anyone in our neighborhood. And then, recouping his thoughts, he looked at me and said, "We need to prune that apple tree again."
* 罗伯特•弗罗斯特(1874-1963)，美国诗人，作品主要描写新英格兰的风土人情，曾四次获得普利策奖。文中引用的诗句选自他的Spring Pools一诗。