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"For Giving" Tree

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Dear Friends:

While researching material for New Years, 2005, I was particularly attracted to the new year practices of the ancient Celts. 
For them, the New Year brought with it the hope for a new beginning, a new life.  The sun, having reached its lowest point on the horizon, would begin to return to a higher position in the sky.  With this would come the warming of the air, the new growing season and a year of prosperity. 

They also felt it was a time to refresh relationships with each other.   Harms would be forgiven and debts forgotten.  A meditation on these concepts resulted in the creation of this original story. 


We hope you find value in the "For Giving Tree" and share it with your friends. 

Copy this url and email it to your friends.   Gary & Anne

The "For Giving" Tree
Written and told by
Gary Wakenhut
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 for it."

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 hand.

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.

Alfonzo 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 blossoms?"

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 ground.

Of course, you know what happened, the cruelty of the people again appeared, and Alfonzo again ran from town to cover his disgrace.

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.

When 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 of him.

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.

Later, 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.

Then the 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 emerged.

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 place.

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 the ground.

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.
(This wonderful water color was created by and used with permission of Lori Taylor.  You can explore and purchase more of her exceptional creativity at her web site)

Author's note:
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.

My Blessings!


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