This isn’t about a shoe or the woven dress shirt fabric or even about an African American presence at Oxford University. It’s about an apple. Not your ordinary grocery store apple but a classic. The Black Oxford is a purple-skinned, white-freckled heirloom apple, as vintage as one can get. At first glance it looks like a plum. It’s roots go back 225 years. It was born in 1790 in Paris, Maine during a time when backyard orchards were commonplace.
What makes this particular apple special is its longevity. Nowadays you buy a fresh apple and it’ll last you 2-4 weeks in a pantry before turning to mush. Not the Black Oxford. It can keep for more than six months in a cool dark place at the right temperature with enough humidity. I certainly didn’t know an apple variety could be preserved naturally for that long.
Many of the New England orchards with these old apple trees need to be hunted down. You may want to talk to an old farmer who may be able to point you in the right direction. Once you find one you’ll want to remove a strip of live bark from those 100 or so year old trees and graft it into a healthy tree to resurrect that treasure of a fruit.
The story of the Black Oxford reminds me of another story involving a vintage fruit from a forgotten land. I see flashbacks of an abandoned garden filled with trees but no one is left to till it or eat from it. Distant echoes brush past me leaving me unsettled, cold, and naked. “Where are you?” reverberates in my soul. The past pulls me back for a few seconds and then returns me to the present with urgency. As if it’s counting on me to change something.
This time around it can be different. It has to be. We have to refuse to bite into just any apple. We should be done with modern, short-lived ideologies that try desperately to trump truth. We should be done with lies.
It’s time to search for the tree that produces precious, unadulterated fruit. Organic, deeply-rooted, mature and healthy. That tree of life. The one guarded by the cherubim. That very one that would allow us to live forever.
We bite into the fruit of that tree to be made whole because we’re an untended orchard of dwarf-sized, bitter, angry, lonely, sick trees. And our fruit is dormant. We need that ancient nourishing sap to be the blood running through our viens.
That rare fruit hung on a tree long ago for us. He beckons us to partake of Him. And this time, we’ll graft Him into our hearts. Because we’re the dying trees that need revival.