It is now late summer at the rabbit patch. I haven’t seen fireflies for several nights. The sun sets a bit earlier day by day and the apples are starting to fall. Soon, I will not be able to tell the time in this fashion and will resort to clocks that count every minute and urge me to hurry with alarms and flashing lights but until then, I will gather apples.
Apple trees have marked the last days of summer for as long as I can remember. My grandparents had several that grew along the pasture and next to the garden. Mama and grandmama spent many summer mornings in that garden. My little sister and I would work with them for a short while, before being banished to the shade of the apple trees. Sometimes, they said it was too hot for us but I suspect now, that they were telling secrets to one another.
Delores and I did not mind as we had friends in that pasture. There was a small herd of ponies and a small herd of goats. There was always a mean cow and in my earliest memories a huge, but kind mule. Delores and I would throw apples to them for a while. We were only allowed to throw the apples that were going bad. A “bad apple” was soft and mushy and usually had yellow jackets buzzing around it-so the process was a tricky one. We made sure that everybody got something in that pasture-and even if it meant throwing one that should have gone in a pie. We threw them at each other too on occasion which would break up the soft conversation in the garden. I still remember the spicy amber smell of the fallen apples, with great fondness.
There was one summer, that the apple trees bore enough fruit to feed three counties. It was good fun at first. We had apple pie twice a day-and fresh applesauce too. If we needed a snack, we were handed an apple. My grandmother used to sometimes say “you get tired of potatoes if you eat them three times a day.” That phrase came up at the oddest times, I thought, as a child. People would laugh but it made no sense to me. I started understanding some of what she meant, that summer. I figured the same could be said of apples.
One year, a while back the apple trees at the rabbit patch pulled the same stunt. My other grandmother was living here at that time-and Tres too. Grandmama had taken a bad fall and was in the bed because of it. Uncles, aunts and cousins visited the rabbit patch all summer on account of that. It was wonderful, but busy. Cooking and laundry had tripled. My aunt Carolyn who was prone to ramble around the yard and start small fires, noticed the apple trees in all their glory . She rushed in the kitchen and wanted to know what I was going to do about it. We neither one believed in wasting anything-but that year, I was willing to do so. She was horror struck and took to delivering buckets of apples to the kitchen door. I came in from the clothesline to find my mom and every other woman in the house, peeling apples. I am quite sure that some of them had not done so for years, but no one wanted to be sinful-so I ended up with enough apples for the winter because of that.
There aren’t too many apples this year at the rabbit patch, but I can not complain. The apple tree is the only fruit tree that did anything this year. The peach, fig and pear trees did not participate in summer this year because of late spring ice. I will not have apples to put up for winter, but I will have enough for a cobbler and a few pies.
The soft pink apple blossoms of an apple tree herald the spring and the apples themselves declare the late summer. In the winter, the apple tree bears its’ soul, gracefully, providing a lovely place for the moon to shine through. An apple tree is not a “fair weather friend” but gives year round in one way or another.
Last night I went out, as always to say good night. The night air had a slight touch of coolness. In the sky, I saw the milky way. This is rarely visible, so of course I went out to the field to get the best view. There were more than a million stars out and I made a lot of wishes. The familiar scent of apples in various stages filled the air. I stood amongst the fallen apples and under a trail of stars for a good while. . . . and when I was able – I said good night with a grateful heart.