For quite some time, I’ve debated whether or not to blog. On the plus side, blogging can refresh this site, and give me an outlet for bits and pieces of writing that don’t fit neatly elsewhere. But will it be a distraction from finishing my many incompleted short stories and essays? There’s only one way to find out! So, herewith is my first blogging post:
For most of my adult life, I lived in Apple Country. I spent four years in Ohio, not far from where Jonathan Chapman, better known as Johnny Appleseed, roamed the hills, with a gunny sack of appleseeds, a battered bible under his arm, and, as legend has it, a tin pot on his head which served as hat when he wasn’t using it cook his dinner over an open fire.
Then, for nearly a decade, I lived in Minnesota, where growers proudly developed several unique varieties of apples. These were frost-resistant (although only to a point, of course; not much can withstand true, deep, penetrating northern Plains cold), hard and wonderfully crisp. Their names evoke Minnesota: Viking, Fireside, Regent, Haralson; there is even one called “State Fair” which is where the earliest varieties are always offered.
And then I moved to New England, where the quintessential season is autumn. In Robert Frost’s poem, “After Apple-Picking”, there were “ten thousand thousand fruit to touch” and so it seemed in the most bountiful years when every farmstand sells cider, apple pies, cider donuts, apple crisp, candy apples….
At last, I decided to migrate west to the Land of Oranges. In California, oranges and lemons grow in the city and suburbs, on the neighbors’ trees. One could get up in the morning, step outside, pick a piece of citrus fruit, and eat it for breakfast! Although everyone else seemed nonchalant about this strange and amazing sight, I found it mind-boggling.
But the thought of leaving New England brought me to a new state of awareness while I planned and packed. I noticed and appreciated what I would soon surrender: that acutely blue October sky behind stunningly yellow maple trees, the unique metallic scraping sound that a leaf rake makes when the tines hit the sidewalk. And I thought of how we always admire the first leaves to turn: the ones that are dappled green and yellow, the brilliant red, an occasional bright orange. Too soon, the beauty of the individual becomes lost in the onslaught of the masses—the more we rake, the less we notice the colors, focusing instead on the size of the piles we create.
When we look up, it is mostly to bemoan the fresh deluge, overlooking the grace with which the leaves spiral, float and swoop down upon us. We curse the winds that shred our heaps before we can stuff them into oversized brown grocery bags. Climbing into the leaf barrel to tamp the contents down with our boots, we forget to laugh at ourselves practicing a New England version of stomping grapes.
I selected a few bright leaves to save, unable to resist the folly. Months later, I opened the dictionary’s pages to find muted, flattened reminders of a long-ago brilliant afternoon.