Not to sound like a fall cliche of a human being, but this weekend I went apple picking on a small farm in New England. And as these activities which snap you out of your everyday routine tend to, apple picking led to my own mini-spiritual awakening. As I was harvesting my bushel of fruit and feeling one with nature, I had a few bite-sized revelations:
1. We could all use a stick sometimes. I had no idea that special tools were used to harvest apples. Did you? The apple stick, as I dubbed it, looks like a broom with a crown on top, attached to a canvas net. The crown thingy helps you shake the apple from its stem and canvas net catches the fallen apples. With a little help, you can get further into the center of the tree where the most ripe apples grow. Had no one told me about the stick, I would have been jumping and climbing and feeling frustrated about not being able to reach the high-hanging fruit. There’s no shame in using an apple stick to make things easier and more enjoyable for yourself. It’s not cheating. It’s smart.
2. But use your hands sometimes, too. As revolutionary as the apple stick was to the picking process, it was also satisfying to put the apple stick down and reach higher than you thought you could and pluck a round,red creature with your own two hands. It made me feel accomplished to pick something barely out of reach. Keep reaching for the apple, champ.
3. Let your nose lead the way. An apple orchard is not a place to have an agenda; it’s a place to amble and let your instincts lead the way. Ditch your schedule and your technology and practice being fully and wholly absorbed by the task at hand. It’s weirdly meditative.
4. Choose your apples with care. There’s no room in your bushel for anything more than what you really want. Let this thought be empowering rather than limiting. Some apples are not fit to be picked because they have rot holes or genetic mutations or are past their prime and have been shaken free from the tree. Be discerning about apples you invite into your bushel. There are so many apples that you may be overwhelmed by choice — 75,000 pieces of fruit and you only get to take 75 with you. Which 75 will they be? The ones you truly want. The ones chosen intentionally.
5. Different apples are good at different things. Even if your nose is leading you to the Granny Smith trees because they are more in your apple comfort zone, hit up the Spencer trees, as well. Pick at least one of every varietal of apple the orchard has to offer because different apples are fit to be used in different ways. Some are more suited for baking and eating, others for pies and sauces. Appreciate the apples for their strengths and weaknesses, just as you appreciate the strengths and weaknesses of yourself and others.
6. Make apples into cider. When life gives you apples, make them into cinnamon stick, clove and nutmeg apple cider. I like this better than the lemons/lemonade platitude because, in this instance, you’re making something that’s already sweet even sweeter. You don’t have to wait for life to turn sour to make it good.
7. Share your bounty with others. You are not going to eat 20 pounds of Cortlands on your own. And even if you tried, they’d go bad before your could shovel them all in. So, stop hoarding your harvest. There are enough apples for everyone. Share your abundance with the people you care about. Make ciders and pies and whatever other crazy thing you can come up with. Bring the leftovers for all your co-workers to eat as snacks. Give your apples away and give them freely.