Saturday, September 17, 2011

Fruits of Others' Labors

Today was one of those perfect September days on the coast of Maine. Blue sky, puffy white cumulus clouds, bug-clearing breeze out of the northeast, I do believe. No. I'm not a weatherman or a fisherman or a sailor. I'll just say it was gorgeous. Just the type of day invented for apple-picking. I'll get to the Robert Frost, don't worry.

(Blueberry and The Man start out enthusiastically)

It's amazing how quickly one little family can pick 15 pounds of apples and still want to keep picking.

(Buttercup and I stop picking for a quick smooch)

(Yes. This is the cutest thing ever.)

Our bags fill almost too quickly as we pick and cheerily discuss what we are to make with these sweet-fleshed beauties. I am imagining a free-form apple galette ala Alice Waters, The Man his own famous butter-laden apple cake, Blueberry a "sweet apple stew" or a "pie with blueberries and apples. You know, mixed together all crazy." We certainly don't feel any Frostian lethargy:

Magnified apples appear and disappear,

Stem end and blossom end,

And every fleck of russet showing clear.

My instep arch not only keeps the ache,

It keeps the pressure of a ladder-round.

I feel the ladder sway as the boughs bend.

And I keep hearing from the cellar bin
The rumbling sound
Of load on load of apples coming in.
For I have had too much
Of apple-picking: I am overtired
Of the great harvest I myself desired.
(from "After Apple-Picking")

When I was young and lived in the mountains of New Hampshire, my sisters and I used to go to a very large apple orchard. It was so large they hired migrant fruit pickers to come help harvest the apples. I remember watching a kaleidoscope variety of humanity up on those ladders, bags slung over their white, brown, black, male or female, young or old shoulders, picking quickly and efficiently, laughing or singing to speed the work. They must have felt like Frost describes - I always imagined that when they shut their eyes they must see only apples, that their clothes would smell sweet and fermented, like cider, that their hands would ache with gripping sphere after sphere so that they would only know how to hold round things and anything else would slip from their grasps. Today we cheerily hauled our paltry 15 pounds of apples away from the orchard and I felt the full burden of our privilege. To be able to walk in and walk out, gathering, literally, the fruit of others' labors, to come, take what we wanted and leave, was almost Edenic.

I'm in a dreamy mood on this chilly night. "Essence of winter sleep is on the night, / The scent of apples: I am drowsing off." Though we did not yet make Blueberry's "sweet apple stew" or "crazy mixed pie," my belly is full of free-form apple tart and The Man's all-good-intention-destroying apple cake. We harvested just enough. We had no need to harvest more, lucky us.