Written and told by
Harp & Keyboard, Anne Wakenhut
It really wasn’t his fault.
We all knew children like Alfonzo when we were growing up. He wasn’t given
the same understanding and nurturing as most of us. When he tried to talk in
front of us, his throat would close like a trap door. And when he tried to
play hop scotch, it appeared as if someone had tied his shoe laces together.
He always wore the same shirt and pants to school, and his hair was straight
and stringy with a lack of opportunity for water and soap.
Some of us were quick to laugh and point fingers
to exaggerate our superiority. If we didn’t do that, when in his absence, we
would pretend that we were Alfonzo and congratulate each other on our
capacity to mime his actions. Even if we weren’t that thoughtless, we never
asked Alfonzo to sit with us at lunch, and we didn’t even consider the
possibility of inviting him home to play after school.
So it really wasn’t Alfonzo’s fault that he
always remained without a friend and was accompanied by resentment and
anger. And Alfonzo did not change as he matured. As an adult, rarely would
he speak to others or acknowledge their presence.
Therefore, he was
totally undone when a small apple tree began speaking to him. In the top of
the beautiful little tree, was the most delicious apple Alfonzo had ever
seen. Twice the size of an ordinary apple and with a vibrant shade of
dazzling red, it made his mouth water with its scrumptious presence.
The tree, was very much aware of the fact that
Alfonzo was quite hungry, "Alfonzo, You may have my fruit. I have no need
Indeed, Alfonzo was hungry. Since he avoided
others, he rarely had anything to eat. Without a second thought, he was
jumping as high as his skinny legs would propel him until he finally grasped
the desired delicacy. He was about to take the first hungry bite when he
heard the voice of a desperate old woman behind him.
"My husband is very sick, and I have nothing to
feed him. Your apple would help to heal him."
Suddenly, Alfonzo became aware of the value of
the fruit. If the old lady wanted the apple, others would also desire it as
well. Brushing the old lady aside, he began running toward town, thinking of
the money such a beautiful fruit would bring at the market in the square.
He forgot about his shyness and jumped up on the
base of the big statue in the market yelling to everyone about the presence
of his beautiful fruit. Sure enough, others found his beautiful apple
desirable, and attracted to the fruit, they forgot about Alfonzo’s
strangeness. A crowd quickly gathered and began making all sorts of offers
for his apple. Unaccustomed to such attention, Alfonzo’s mind quickly moved
without reason. If the apple was worth this much, and he cut it in half, he
would be able to reap twice as much. Reaching into his pocket, he pulled out
his knife, slicing the apple’s beauty in half with one quick movement of his
The gathered crowd immediately reacted with
disgust and the familiar laughter Alfonzo had come to hate. Pointing their
fingers toward Alfonzo’s poor judgment, they heaped insult on his
frustration. Alfonzo responded by hurling both apple halves at his
opposition. Seeing the apple pieces fall to the dirt, the crowd laughed even
harder. Alfonzo, becoming overwhelmed by his embarrassment, ran from the
town swearing that he would never again expose himself to the presence of
these wicked people.
The following spring, Alfonzo happened to be
walking by that same tree and recalled the wonderful apple it had produced
the year before. While Alfonzo was not schooled in relationships with
others, he was really a very smart man. He had studied much and knew that a
lot of apples on a tree would produce small apples. Therefore, if its limbs
were pruned, there would be fewer apples of a greater size. Thinking of the
attractiveness of last year’s apple, he reasoned that the young tree would
produce even more fruit this year.
quickly pulled out his knife and began cutting off the weakest of limbs. In
full blossom, their beauty fell to the ground, and Alfonzo again heard the
voice of the tree speaking to him.
"Trim me if you wish. I have extra limbs."
And before the tree could say more, the same old
woman approached Alfonzo saying "My husband has died, and he will be buried
tomorrow, and I have no flowers for his grave. Could I take the apple
Again Alfonzo’s mind moved faster than his
reason. If he old woman wanted the beauty of the blossoms, others would want
them as well. He quickly scooped up the fragrant branches, and pushing the
old woman aside, he ran for town.
But he had forgotten that the branches would not
hold their flowers without moisture, and by the time he reached the market
square and jumped up on the statue base to announce his gorgeous produce,
the beauty and fragrance of the blossoms began wilting and falling to the
Of course, you know what happened, the cruelty
of the people again appeared, and Alfonzo again ran from town to cover his
With so much embarrassment, Alfonzo quickly
forgot about his plans for the apple tree. But later that summer, he
happened by the tree only to be amazed by the vast quantity, size and beauty
of the developing produce. Impressed by its potential, he erected a fence of
old branches and vines around its perimeter. He must make sure that no one
would take his future.
fall came, remembering his previous failures, he carefully harvested the
produce. Gently wrapping each beautiful piece of fruit with paper, he placed
the delicious apples within his basket.
Wiser than before, and armed with the potential
for revenge, he again went to town and climbed up on the statue base. This
time the crowd anticipated his presence, and their laughter was immediate,
but their faces were soon covered with amazement as Alfonzo reached into his
basket, and extracted two of the apples, each larger than the one he had
exhibited the previous fall. The crowd’s guffaws suddenly ceased, and they
began making extremely generous offers for his exceptional produce.
Alfonzo went home that afternoon with the future
in his pockets. The apple tree would be his ticket to success in life.
Each year the tree grew bigger, and his profits
greater. Soon he was one of the most successful people within the community.
He resided in a huge house and could purchase anything he wanted. But he
still maintained his isolation and had very little contact with others.
One day, there was a knock on the door, and he
opened it to find the old woman.
"Please kind sir. May I have some food? I have
not eaten in several days, and I am starving to death."
Alfonzo with his greed, realized he could use
the old lady. He was tired of caring for the apple tree and doing all the
chores to maintain himself and his home. So his resourceful mind decided to
employ the old lady. She could harvest and sell the produce plus take care
Not having to work anymore, Alfonzo quickly grew
fat with age and laziness. His limbs stiffened, and his senses of sight and
hearing weakened. As a result, he failed to note that each year the apple
tree was also growing older. With the tree’s decline, the harvest also
regressed, and the quantity, quality, and beauty of the fruits were
deteriorating. Soon, the money that the old lady brought back from the
market was not enough to support her labor so he told her she had to leave.
The following year, Alfonzo, feeling the pains
of an empty stomach, hoped to find some apples to answer his hunger. But
when he approached the tree, it contained only one small deformed apple. A
pair of crows swept down from the sky and began fighting over the wrinkled
fruit. With his old anger returning, Alfonzo began picking up sticks and
hurling them at the crows. However, he was so weak with age and hunger, that
his efforts were unsuccessful. Eventually tearing the apple to pieces, the
crows carried off the seeds, dropping them as they flew away.
toward the end of the winter, Alfonzo’s supply of wood had been consumed by
the extremely cold weather. So Alfonzo, carrying his ax, trudged through the
deep snow to the tree. Preparing to make his first swing, Alfonzo again
heard the tree’s voice.
"If you need my wood, you may have it. I no
longer have need for my trunk and my branches."
Alfonzo told the tree that he indeed desired the
wood because he was very very cold, and he needed it to provide his warmth.
Then the tree suggested, "Perhaps you should not
do this in such haste. Once my wood is burned, there will be nothing more to
give your warmth. Wouldn’t it be better to create your warmth by making
something of beauty?"
Alfonzo found himself staring at the old dying
apple tree. Was that a face embedded within the trunk? Alfonzo took out his
knife and carefully carved away some of the rough bark. As he worked, he
became less aware of the bitter cold and more aware of his desire to release
the secret in the old, knurled apple tree. Each gentle stroke of his knife
revealed another piece of the beauty of the hidden face. Soon, a sweet smile
appeared and tender eyes watched from within his labor.
He had seen those eyes before, but whose were
they? He began to move his knife with greater rapidity, but with even more
care. Yes, it was. Yes it was. It was the old woman, greeting him with the
look of peaceful care she had shared with him for so many years. The angry,
hard place inside of him began to soften as he remembered her efforts to
care for him in spite of his lack of thanks.
most amazing things began to occur. Alfonzo’s hands were growing in warmth
as his carving continued to release each feature of the face within the
tree. The snow began to melt and drip from the branches, and where each drop
of nurturing moisture fell to the ground, tiny Spring Beauty flowers
Then, a sweet song floated to Alfonzo’s old ears
as two birds flew into the apple tree’s branches carrying colorful ribbons
to build a nest. Alfonzo immediately grew defensive about their presence
within HIS tree, but the radiant voice of the face within the tree’s trunk
spoke, reminding him of the magical happenings. "We have more than enough
branches to share with them".
A squirrel then scampered up the trunk, and
Alfonzo was surprised to find himself looking for a place for the animal’s
home. Finding a suitable fork from which three limbs emerged, he carved away
the excess to provide a base for its nest. The squirrel gratefully began to
gather twigs to create his new home.
An owl arrived, and without thinking Alfonzo
knew what to do. Finding a rotten spot in the tree’s trunk, he removed the
dead wood creating a home for his new friend.
Soon, other animals, a deer, a raccoon, and a
skunk joined the gathering. Two children were walking by and were attracted
to the special feelings that were occurring. Excited by their new discovery,
they quickly went home to tell their parents about the beautiful face in the
old apple tree and the changes that had taken place in Alfonzo.
Soon, the same people who had laughed at
Alfonzo, came to witness the miracle described by the children. They too,
were drawn to the beauty and gentleness that encompassed the face within the
tree. They were also impressed by the sensitivity Alfonzo shared with their
children. They, in turn, apologized for their past rudeness to Alfonzo and
asked his forgiveness. Tears ran down his rugged cheeks, and the wholeness
of his smile moved to surround them, and all knew that a healing had taken
||Alfonzo told them
that he was about to die, and he wished that they would bury him near
the tree. When that time came, all the people from the town came to
participate in the service. It was a wonderful experience, and as they
were leaving, one of the children noticed a small seedling emerging from
Soon they discovered several more, the
results of the crows that had dropped the seeds from that last wrinkled
fruit…new life emerging and creating the future.
Usually, when writing a piece, I will start with a theme or a concept and
intellectually build my story. However, The "For Giving Tree"
came from an entirely different creative place. I started my morning
meditation with thoughts of leaving behind the difficulties within
relationships of the past year, and then looking for new possibilities
within those relationships. From somewhere in my mind a quarter of a
century before, I recalled the apple green cover of Shel Silverstein's book
The Giving Tree, and sharing its words with my daughter.
The Giving Tree's concepts of an old man and
his life long relationship with an apple tree formed the basis for this
story. From there, my
characters, etc. quickly began to spontaneously emerge in visual images (I usually have to
work to find a visual image with my meditation). I continued my
meditation on this theme for two more mornings, and the whole story was
solidly formed. The only actual intellectual work for me with this
story was to choose the words for sharing it with you.
Then, when searching the Internet for graphics to
compliment my own photos, I happened upon Lori Taylor's Grandmother
Apple. I was shocked to discover her watercolor and how it
illustrated the conclusion to my story. Thanks to you, Lori, for
allowing us to reproduce it here. Remember you can find it and more of
her work at
I hope my creative inspiration has value for you and provides you with some
new possibilities for your life in 2005.