There is an ancient apple tree at the very center of the Marlboro campus, one of several bearing witness to the orchard and farm that lived here once, before the arrival of students and musicians. Only a few steps from the dining hall, where today music and meals, dances and skits, discussions and daydreams send out their sounds, aromas, lights, and intangibles, the apple tree has stood, for longer than most of us may well have to live, as a silent, patient, observant, self-possessed, perennially fertile presence through Vermont’s seasons of extremes and through the transformations of its surroundings, ever undiminished in its vitality and the welcoming of its open arms.
Resembling more the timeless, gnarled, intrepid olive trees of Gethsemane, its outspread branches have kindly held generations of climbing-happy children, served as the setting for photographs of young and old, and fed the adventurous who taste its unsolicited fruit. Untended, unpruned, year after year its nascent apples, unremarked at first, quietly ripen as a summer’s music continues, as if to mirror, encourage, and document our own ripening efforts nearby. Its only sounds come from fruit as it drops to the ground in August, weeping with and applauding the music that, like the apples, is the fruit of a summer’s dedication. The cider aroma of apples on the ground mingles then with the sounds of instruments and voices, lingering suspended in the atmosphere.
The apple tree is unlike others of its kind. (It has not only risen upward, but has sent out trunk-thick limbs horizontally, close to the ground – limbs that have re-rooted and can sustain the weight of ice and snow, of the canopy’s ever expanding reach, of climbers and crops and time. It has even survived a major amputation recently. A horizontal stump presents to our unsettling sight, like a veteran amputee, the evidence of unpeaceful times.) Its scars of age, its determination still further to spread its wings, to live on, re-root, and produce new generations speaks to the continuing fertility of the vision of those once re-rooting uprooted idealists from post-war Europe whose heartbreaking beautiful music it first heard some sixty years ago drifting across to where it then already stood, ready to receive, treasure, and reciprocate down to this very day.