I found out this week I have won 3rd prize in the Wealden Literary Festival writing competition, hurrah! The festival is billed as ‘An enchanting weekend full of words, ideas, local food, arts and crafts celebrating the nature of place’ and entries to the competition were judged by author Katherine May, whose brilliant book ‘The Electricity of Every Living Thing’ I recently finished reading.
The theme for competition entries this year was ‘The World at my Doorstep’ and entries could be any form (prose, poetry, diary etc) but limited to 500 words. Here’s my winning entry in full….
The World At My Doorstep
My grandmother is an apple tree.
No wait, that’s the wrong way round. My apple tree is a grandmother. A grandmother’s grandmother. Stately once, now she leans into the spring breezes, dressed in a crochet blanket of moss.
The apple tree in my garden is not really mine.
She has sailed the decades of this cottage with ease, watching over lives the years have folded together since. I rested in her shade, ripe and swollen as September; content to wait for motherhood to bloom from my belly, and as I reeled, lost indoors through that first new autumn of mewling, I counted through the window her stalwart boughs clinging on to those last, huge fruits. All through bare November, big as grapefruits, they were. Would knock you clean out, we thought, so we didn’t sit there with the baby.
How many other babies were born on that stone cottage floor, paraded outdoors past her wise old trunk? Which children have loved her? Climbed her? Tasted her, here, in this house, in this garden of ours?
My grandmother tree knows every star on a summer’s night. She too held silent arms aloft, bare feet planted in the damp twilight grass and gazed at Jupiter, rising, behind the ridge of the roof (the new roof now). We are here for such a short time, I thought, and wept.
Not for her those angry rooks. In her quieter orb, a universe of calm. She murmurs gentle spells, to nurture as good mothers do the smallest of visitors – a blue tit perhaps, or a moth. She bears the undignified squirrels with good humour. How many squirrels constitute a squirrel problem? I think we have a squirrel problem.
We know of womanhood now, she and I. Of its rain lashed barren winters, stark and slick as bare branches against white January sky. We have stood, ignored, dripping our misery on those scurrying past in the downpour, the bitter-dank smell of soil rooting us firm on the earth, as the tiny things, the secret things, creep, deep away beneath. But pillowy pink in blossom she can still trap lazy bees in her thrall, and together we bear the weight of our fruit – love spent well, and heavy with duty.
For there are worlds other than ours. But always, apples.
Obviously I’m beyond thrilled to be in the top three winners (third is right after second is right after first, right?). It’s nice to feel recognised for my writing, so I am determined to make the effort to enter more stuff in more stuff, so to speak.
Thanks to everyone who reads my stuff, encourages me, points out when I’ve spelled things wrong (this never happens) and generally makes me feel like it’s a valid use of my time to create things with words. I’m still not sure what the point of all this is, but with each thing I write I find my real voice a little bit more, so I hope you enjoy it too.