In May 2011, after four years of life on McNutt's Island, we moved to Montreal. This blog remains, though, as a (sort of) daily record of our time on the island, and a winding path for anyone who would like to meander about among its magical places. For additional perspectives and insights I recommend Greg's book, Island Year: Finding Nova Scotia (2010), and my Bowl of Light (2012). I'll continue to post once in a while. If you do want to read this blog, one option would be to begin at the beginning of it (which is, as we all know, in blog-world, at the end), and read forward, concluding with the most recent entry. It's a journal, really, so it does makes more sense if you read it that way. But, you know, read it any way you like.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Harvest Lessons

Here's Greg's October column from The Coast Guard:

I am standing at the top of a 20-foot A-frame ladder with my head poking through a maze of branches, twigs and hanging apples.  I have climbed up into one of our ancient apple trees.  Its limbs go in every direction, like an orchestra conductor out of control.  From here I can see the rest of the orchard and the sky above.   A circling hawk eludes a squadron of dive-bombing little birds as they protect their nests.  The hawk pretends indifference, but the birds and I know better.  Finally, he drifts away as if not really wanting their eggs after all, nor being in the least bit perturbed by the birds’ aerial attacks.

Inches away a young downy woodpecker pecks at a limb.  In her haste, she has not noticed me, as if it would never occur to her that a human could be up this high.  When she does spot me, she flies off, not bothering to find out why I am up here.  I am here to pick apples.  It’s harvest time on McNutt’s.  Forty-five trees, most of them over one hundred years old, need picking.  I am at number five.

Apples hang motionless around me, neither fleeing nor attacking.  The apple tree itself remains still, except for a gentle stirring in the afternoon breeze.  It seems undisturbed by my intrusion, almost accepting.  I strain a bit from my vulnerable place atop the ladder, trying to reach one particular apple that eludes me.  I put my arm out to an adjacent limb to brace myself.  It supports me, as if doing what it can to help.

I would have imagined my relationship to this tree to be adversarial, me wanting its fruit, it resisting my advances.  But the tree graciously acquiesces, proving me wrong in my attitude.  It teaches me something of a quiet grace.

The fruit it offers, to be quite honest, is not pretty.  The birds and insects have had their way with it.  It could not pass muster at the supermarket.  There, food on display requires perfect skin and a uniform look.  There is no uniformity about the blemished and irregular fruit I pick.

I am finally able to get the elusive fruit.  I decide it is worth sampling.  As I bite into it, its taste explodes in my mouth with sweetness, tang, lightness and crunch.  I feel the fruit’s essence infusing my whole being.  I stop my efforts for a moment and close my eyes, a dangerous thing to do at the top of a ladder.  I feel empathy with Eve.  I too would betray for the likes of this.  Who could imagine that within such a blemished and ill-shapen skin there could exist such sweetness?  In this too the old tree teaches me something of life - of living fully and deliciously from within, unconcerned with perfect presentations. 

It seems fitting that these trees offer up their apples in the season when we gather together in gratitude for life’s bounty, and share, imperfectly but generously, what we have with each other, blemishes, sweetness and all.  This apple reminds me of this.

Tomorrow I will begin making cider and apple butter from the bounty of today’s tree.  I will give most of what I make to friends and relatives, a small way of honoring the tree’s generosity.  Yet there will still be more apples to harvest, at least a month’s worth spent amid limbs and branches, balancing on my ladder, leaning occasionally on the mercies of each tree, reaching for what eludes me.

I will enjoy being with my new friends, the ancient orchard trees.  I suspect they are not through teaching me all that they know.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Your blog fills me with longing. Thank you for taking the time to share your life with us.