Up at my dad's house in the mountains of New Mexico is an apple tree unlike any that you've ever seen before.
It's branches come from a dozen different heirloom apple trees, each one carefully grafted on many years ago. It lives on the side of the house, basking in the west sun. When it blooms in the springtime, the scent is heavenly and the fruit erupts in summer with a riot of colors, textures, and tastes.
The first couple of years that the tree put forth fruit, we could reach out of the living room window on the second story and pick apples while standing inside. The tree gave us hundreds of crisp reds, tart greens, and every color in between. We ate apples for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. We added them to pies and cobblers and salads and finally appled-out, we would freeze them - peeled and cored - in one-gallon storage bags to pull out during those long apple-less months while the tree replenished her stores.
The third year, a violent hailstorm destroyed the scented springtime blossoms and decimated that year's crops. We pulled out the bags of frozen apples and lamented our lost bounty, cursing the storms and hail.
In the fourth year, we watched the skies and prayed for protection from wind and hail as the delicate blossoms appeared. We held our breath in anticipation as the blossoms gave way to hundreds of tiny fruits, dotted across the smooth branches and arrayed leaves. A delicate riot of color, tastes, and textures danced in our minds as we planned how best to use this long-awaited, bumper crop of apples.
A late-season freeze swept down the Rockies from Canada and wiped out most of the baby apples. We scaled back our hopes and dreams of apple pies and apple cobblers and jars of apple butter. We gazed longingly at those that survived the freeze, grateful that we would have at least a handful to harvest.
Then the birds came. Ravens, blue jays, black-headed grosbeaks, and - worst of all - redheaded woodpeckers. They ate their fill of sour baby apples that year and once again, our coffers were empty.
Frustrated and angry at the weather and the birds, we countered these attacks with human ingenuity. My dad built a massive wooden frame above and around the tree. He bought endless sheets of fruit tree netting and attached it to the new frame, creating a protective shroud to protect against hail and frost and birds. Each spring he would repair holes and replace worn pieces and sit back, pleased with how well the tree was protected from threats that we could not control.
The tree was safe from hail, frost, and hungry birds. But the years came and went and the tree put forth no blossoms in the springtime and no fruit in the summer. It lay dormant and perfectly preserved beneath is shaded, protective canopy. Frozen in time.
Taking a walk one mid-summer day, my dad noticed how heavy his neighbors' trees were with fruit. Scraggly pear trees that were little more than twisted stumps were bursting with fat, ripe fruit. Apple trees large and small, in yards, by the side of the road, and in decorative pots gave forth their crunchy, sweet crop.
There they were, at the mercy of the wind, weather, and wildlife. There they were, flourishing and doing exactly what nature intended. There they were, resilient.
He went home and tore down the protective shroud around our apple tree, dismantling the frame piece-by-piece. He opened it back up to the sky.
Some years, the wind and hail and frost will come to snuff out the blossoms and the birds will take their share. Others will be full and abundant, filled with pies and cobblers and freezer-bags.
Like apple trees, we cannot bear fruit when we stay hidden away and protected from everything that threatens us. To flower and burst forth with abundance, we must first become vulnerable. Then we are truly open to the sky and all its limitless possibilities.