Keep me as the apple of your eye;
hide me in the shadow of your wings
from the wicked who are out to destroy me,
from my mortal enemies who surround me.
- Psalm 17:8-9
Keep my commands and you will live;
guard my teachings as the apple of your eye.
- Proverbs 7:2
I said, “I will climb the palm tree;
I will take hold of its fruit.”
May your breasts be like clusters of grapes on the vine,
the fragrance of your breath like apples,
and your mouth like the best wine.
- Song of Solomon 7:8-9
Who is this coming up from the wilderness leaning on her beloved?
Under the apple tree I roused you; there your mother conceived you, there she who was in labor gave you birth.
- Song of Solomon 8:5
The word “apple” appears in the NIV ten times. The four references in the Scriptures above amount to nearly half, and most of the remaining references are duplicates of the concept of “apple of someone’s eye.” Where you will not find the word “apple” is in the story of the Fall of Man in Genesis 3. It only mentions the forbidden fruit, but people have been blaming the apple for millennia. The rumor was probably started by those dastardly conniving pear growers next door. (Just kidding)
In the photo above, taken four days before writing this and two days before the unpredicted “snowstorm,” it looks like a flag is flying from the apple tree in the yard behind ours. This is not a flag but a plastic grocery bag that someone had carelessly discarded, a bit of litter, high in the tree. I used a photo of this apple tree once before when the apples had fallen from the tree, unnoticed by the residents, and the deer were eating the apples.
This photo was taken as a strong storm was moving through the area. From the direction of the bag (flag), the wind is toward the north, but the storm was moving from west to east and southwest to northeast. There was definitely sheer in the atmosphere with height. The bag flew in one direction. Then the clouds were flying in two different directions. There was a lot of lightning and straight-line winds, but no tornadoes reported in our area. I took the photo after the worst of the storm had passed and there were no more lightning strikes reported in our area. I was taking the trash to the street, and it required using bricks to hold down the trash can and trash bags, 20-30 mph sustained winds and gusts up to 70mph. It was an adventure walking with a trash can that was more sail than trash can between our house and the neighbors. The Bernoulli principle was in full display, where you have less space for the air, the winds pick up speed.
But a day later, I was at our favorite wholesale warehouse store. They do not used plastic grocery bags, but there was one in one of their trees also. That was most definitely litter as none of the stores in the immediate area used that type of grocery bag.
But this tale is not about litter, but we should not litter.
This story is about the Summer Olympic Games in Beijing, in an odd way. Really about the trip that I made at that time to the People’s Republic of China. It was August of 2008, and the apples were nearing the time to harvest them.
I was staying on the southern shore of the Yellow Sea, teaching people at an aluminum manufacturing plant. When we, my other instructor and myself, were ready to go back to Yantai, to the airport, our driver, who could not speak English, had the front desk people explain that we would be taking the “direct” route to the airport to “save time.” I suspect that the driver did not have authority to drive the main divided highway route and he drove the backroads to avoid getting caught. But I have no proof, just a lot of experience. The front desk people warned us that the ”direct” route would 1) barely get us there in time and 2) the road would be “rough.”
Our route home was a tight itinerary. We were to fly from Yantai to Beijing. Due to the Olympics, there were no seats available on flights from there to the USA, so we flew from Beijing to Shanghai. And in all Chinese wisdom, we had to go to baggage claim and clear security again just to change flights in Shanghai, with running through the airport that reminded me of a disgraced professional football player in a car rental advertisement many years ago. But then from Shanghai directly to Chicago. And for those who have never flown that route or have never experienced such travel, we arrived in Chicago a little over an hour BEFORE we left from Shanghai. (Explanation: about twelve hours of flying time with a strong wind at our backs a little less and changing thirteen hours behind where we took off. Thirteen minus roughly twelve is about an hour “before” we took off, but it was still twelve hours later in Shanghai.) With so many airplanes that were full leaving China that week, the news of our driver using the “direct” route that took longer was a bit disconcerting. But to spoil that part of the story, we made our connections.
But what we were given in return was a very bumpy, but glorious bit of farming country that I thoroughly loved except for one thing. My camera was in the trunk of the car ,and it was so hazy that morning near dawn that the photos may not have been good anyway.
What type of farming? The Yantai apples are considered a delicacy in China. They are highly sought after. We drove through apple orchards all the way to the airport, at times, literally.
I say all the way, but the first thirty minutes was on a two-lane road until we got to a small village, just about dawn. The driver stopped suddenly. The paved road had turned into a dirt road through the village and there was a puddle of water in front of the car, of unknown depth, that was larger than the car, by length and width. We had not truck in front of us to judge the depth. The driver waited for on-coming traffic to clear and then he weaved from one side of the “road” to the other to drive through puddles that might not swallow the vehicle. Ah, success!! At this point, I was thinking, “No way will we make our flight.” I settled down to enjoying the scenery instead of our travel worries.
Then, he turned down another dirt road, but it was unkind to call this a dirt road at all. We were inside the orchard on a lane used by the tractors while working with the apples, not a road at all. At the other end of the tractor lane, we went onto another two-lane dirt road, to a paved road and in a couple of blinks, into Yantai, PR China, less than a mile away from the airport exit.
Why did the site of litter stuck in trees bring this memory back?
I was told that Yantai apples were extremely delicate and in high demand. The orchard growers could not afford to lose a single apple. Thus, as soon as the apple started to form, the orchard growers would place the apple in a bag. The bag protected the apples from insect bites and parasites and anything that might cause a blemish on the apple.
Hearing about that seemed to be just another tall tale, but as we drove through the orchard, we saw 30-40 filled bags hanging from every tree. It was an amazing sight. Again, a frustrating sight with my camera where I could not get to it. But I was lost in this unusual farming practice and being lost in that thought, I had completely forgotten that we had to be ready to start running to our gate.
I guess, in an odd way, that God’s promise that all things work for the good for those who love the Lord is a little obscure in this case, but … I saw something that most people, including myself, would think was unnecessary filth in an otherwise nice-looking tree, but it brought back a fond memory where the bags in the trees were meant to be there.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.