On a sunny Saturday when the afternoon stretched clear ahead of me, I headed up to Lakeview Orchards.
I remember it was the season of High Holy Days, and I was thinking of my sister-in-law and her family. I wanted to pick apples on a day that holds meaning for her, so I could give them to her, in a way. A few days earlier, Wild Soul River had taught me to make a simple cordial — mix fruit and spirit and something sweet and keep them in a jar for a few months to meld.
The orchard has a simple, open-ended setup. When you come in, you pay for the containers you want, maybe a bushel bag, and then you can wander in the orchard and fill them any way you like with any kinds of apples that are ripe.
Apple season was just coming in then, and they had the first early varieties ready to pick. The Galas were red-gold, small and sweet. Cortlands were turning red, crisp and tart and big enough to hold in two hands, and often they would grow twinned, two apples molded together.
I remember walking down the rows between the trees, feeling for a few within reach. Fruit trees get pruned low these days a lot of the time, but I still look up to apples. The trees run on up the hill, and from the end of a row you can look down over Cheshire Lake in the valley.
The last of the plums were hanging on too. The yellow ones were starting to soften and fall, and the deep dusky purple ones were still firm. A family was picking just up the way, and their son seemed to be finding all this new, the fruit and the find sweet scent and the stickiness of juice.
When I’d filled my bag, I took the fruit home for plum jam and apple pie. And I made a cordial with apples and thyme, and a poem at the back of my mind — I thought it was Dylan Thomas in Fern Hill, climbing in the apple trees.
‘All the sun long it was running, it was lovely, the hay
fields high as the house, the tunes from the chimneys, it was air
and playing, lovely and watery
and fire green as grass. …’
But he keeps on repeating that he was young, as though racing through the high hay and walking with warm horses and listening for owls and picking apples only belong to children. And I want to be out in the fields in many more falls and know that green and carefree feeling. Maybe the poem I wanted is Robert Frost, The Cow in Apple Time.
Something inspires the only cow of late
to make no more of a wall than an open gate …
Maybe I want to jump the wall and go wandering in the hills.