You would think apple picking is about the smell, but it’s not.
At first, it’s about the feel. The air is always colder than you think out in the orchards. Even with a stocking cap pulled down past my ears and a cozy green flannel zipped up to my neck, a shiver occasionally runs the length of my spine.
At first, I try to stay with the group, antsy to get going, still wanting to be polite. But soon, I wander, past the Ida Reds, the Jonathans, the Fujis, and the Empires, down to the Honeycrisps. I like to drift far enough away that the only sound I can hear is the wetworn grass receiving my footsteps. It’s quiet here, away from the to-do list tacked on my board back at home. Out here, it’s a little easier for me to remember what was, what is, and what will someday be again. Deep down, I think that’s why we all go apple picking.
There’s a belief in Hebrew culture about returning; coming back to things you once did and doing them again.
Like taking a drip-juicy bite from this year’s inaugural strawberry.
Or indulging in an annual Christmas breakfast of egg casserole with herbed sausage and stringy cheddar cheese.
Or driving past that house where you had your very first kiss.
Returning reminds us of God’s goodness: I am here in this place where I tasted goodness once and there is goodness again. Returning is an act of faith and gratitude.
That’s part of the reason why the Hebrew people have so many festivals. They choose to remember that goodness comes back.
I cut down an aisle glowing with the ruby blush of a few hundred apples. Yes, these will do nicely.
Like any good hunter, I am circumspect. I try to pick all of my apples by sight instead of pulling them off the tree for inspection. Sometimes, one looks absolutely perfect, but a pluck from the branch and a twist by my hand reveals a slight aberration—big enough that I don’t want the apple, but small enough that I don’t want the ground to have it either, so I perch it back in the tree. I do this with apple, after apple, after apple. As if the apples have feelings and might experience betrayal because I have not chosen them.
I often care a lot about little things.
But there’s lots of satisfactory apples too. Each finds its way into my bag. And somewhere in my selecting, I pluck the biggest, brightest apple to eat right then and there. It smacks tart and sweet and runs with juice down my chin. This apple is the best apple, and it is every apple I’ve ever picked to eat in an orchard. I eat so I can remember.
Embracing this moment and this sunshine amidst the rush of midterms and work responsibilities nearly overwhelms me with decadence. I can’t help but feel a twinge of guilt that I’ve made room for such relaxation. The tightness inside reminds me of how tight I have let life grow in general. I sigh, discouraged at the way I forget over and over to make room in my life, and to rest. Yet here I am again, picking apples to remember.
Remember what was, remember what is, remember what will one day be again.
Remember amidst fall rush and expectation what truly, deeply matters.
Katy Johnson lives, dreams, writes, and edits in a messy, watercolored world. She’s a 29 year old, discovering her hope, her longings, and the wild spaces in her own heart. Her favorite creative project right now is called Will I Break?, and someday, that manuscript may see the light of day. For now, she shares her thoughts here.