Apples red green and shiny hang like lanterns from the trees in the
abandon orchard. The old truck that has brought us to this empty farm
wheezes its last cough and diesels into silence.
Three bright eyed little girls prepare to exit the truck at the same
time. I set the brake and open the door for them to tumble through.
We had to park on the hill for a running start in case the battery
will not pick up.. Typical of old "Cleo", as we sometimes
call our vintage truck.
Each year we have come to this farm to gather the apples that still
grow on the twisted trees. I am always careful to leave some for the
deer and bear who live near by in the woods. I discovered this farm
by chance when looking for herbs, that grow along the river banks.
Three bundles of sweaters and hoods run and play hide and seek around
the trees, peals of laughter drifts up to me as I began to pick apples
from the lower branches. We have no ladder and will have to really
reach for the higher apples that always appear redder, bigger and
more juicy. I have brought three bushel baskets for the apples and
we will soon fill them.
As I start to pick I invision the sweet smell of apple sauce bubbling
on the stove rich with cinnimon. I place another fat red apple into
the basket and taste the juicy filling of an apple pie, warm from
the oven, with sharp cheese on top.
The girls run from tree to tree not serious at all about picking apples.
This old farm once had many children, I feel them as I watch the girls
play in the orchard. Like shadows the spirit children run beside the
girls and playing once more.
Just beyond the trees are the wild grapes we will also pick for jelly
The leaves are starting to change color and fall in a speckeled carpet.
Like scattered gold, the leaves stir as the girls run through them.
I reach high up pulling the fat apples off the branch, all the time
keeping an eye on the girls. I call to them, "do not venture
far from the trees", they as usual do not listen to me. There
are deep woods on each side of the field and in Maine one can get
lost fast in the thick bramble of bush and trees.
Soon the baskets are full, with little help from my three charges,
who now are eyeing the basket of food. Spreading an old blanket out,
we sit and eat the sandwiches of home made bread and cheese. I pour
apple cider in all their little cups and we have a great picnic in
the orchard. The grass grows tall and invites us to lay back in it.
Soon the game of clouds is in full swing the girls competing for the
best shapes and colors. We make up stories and look for familiar forms
of animals and birds in the white fluffy mist.
After this wonderful feast and rest, we walk to the woods behind the
farm house. High in the trees we see clusters of dark sweet grapes
hanging from the trees. The air is full of the ripe, rich odor, we
pick several brown grocery bags full. These grapes are destined for
my jelly pot to make a sweet filling on our bread this winter.
The wind starts to blow hard and specks of ice sting our faces, Gathering
up the baskets and bags with some help we put them in the truck. The
girls cheeks are as pink now as the apples stacked in the truck. Of
course no one wants to leave so they go for a last run in the tall
grass. I know the ride home will be quiet the girls will be fast asleep
before we hit the black topped road.
As we start to leave a whippoorwill calls in the the woods, now starting
to darken and fade in the afternoon light. I always make a little
visit to the old farm house and look in the windows, no one has been
there in years. By the old slate sink sits a Victorian wood stove
covered in dust and rust. Sad to see this place that once housed a
family empty, and not wanted. For one small moment I touch the door
jam and place myself in the house. In this one small space and time,
I live there with my girls.
I can smell fresh bread baking and see steaming apple pies sitting
on the old pine table in the kitchen. The house welcomes me as I enter
the kitchen door. Laughter and sun light fills the well worn and scrubbed
kitchen. The wood stove crackles and pops calling me near, I am enfolded
in a place of love and peace. For that one small moment, I can feel
the love that still lives in this house. I close my eyes and say a
pray to Creator for this time and place, I give thanks for the memory