“You see, this tree eats people…” I say .
The Jerusalem Peacekeepers, teenagers of all three faiths, all draw close and smile.
Storytellers are part of their lives.
.“…and that tablet has all the names of the people it’s eaten!” I point dramatically.
Suddenly, Christ Church croft isn’t “just another church” where they go on their tour.
A few of them actually look at the stone.
“Now, I never said it ate live people. It eats only dead people. But the fact remains.” I pull a pear off and throw it to the small crowd. “You hold someone when you take its fruit.” They’re very good pears.
Everyone laughs. I take another. They’re small and yellow. Half of mine will be for dessert. Some will grace an epic pot of beans, with red wine, lemon peel, and chocolate. I don’t make that often.
I can’t say how old the tree is. The Abbey, behind it, is one of the oldest buildings in New Haven. Fruit trees don’t last long. It’s an old stock, though. Bartlett, like in the West Wing. It has a really big hollow, it should be seen to by a tree surgeon, or at least, filled with soil, and something planted within, like…a wild strawberry. Too many insects otherwise, will colonize the tree, and soon…no tree, but a thriving colony in a log, with roots not giving messages to other plants, but only fertilizing the soil.
It doesn’t always make pears. I’ve seen years when the season is so short as to be less than a week. Some times, there have been enough to give away. Although not everyone knows about pears, or likes them. The grittiness throws them off. Still, I eat them, more cooked than fresh, though I would drink their juice, even their cider and brandy. I love the circle of life they represent.
People who die in this parish, without a plot in the City Cemetaries are cremated, and buried here, under the People Tree, and their names inscribed on a tablet nearby. I've been to one of their funerals -- an Armenian gentleman, whose family fled the Turks, and converted to our specific Church on the order of their Priest. The wake was lavish in food, his praises sung in a dignified manner, and his sons and grandsons impressively handsome. Love flowed, to one and all.
Cannibal! you say. But is anyone less, where we drink the blood of God and eat His flesh? It may be in the form of a swallow of sweetened red wine and a bit of wafer, but it is flesh and blood nonetheless. Is it so bad to taste it in the form of a pear?
But then, they are very good pears.