I just walked in the door from a damn near religious experience in my friend's apple grove. And...instead of bringing in my harvest and doing something with them and then tackling the dozens of other things that MUST be accomplished today, I ran to the basement , apple in hand, to get this moment documented. Because that's how powerful it was for me. The apples were brought in and added to the piles and heaps of stuff that seem to be everywhere in my house. They will have to wait...
After a wonderful moms group meeting today, I ran over to my friend Laura's house to pick the apples she has so generously offered to anyone who was willing to come and pick from the tree. Here's the deal...they have a small grove of apples but their home is under construction, her husband is recovering from a serious back surgery and not back at work yet and can't pick himself, and she works full time. Oh, and she has 3 children under the age of four. She not only wanted someone to put these apples to good use, she needed them picked. To save the trees, as their branches had become so heavy with fruit, they were near snapping.
Many people had already made the trip to their amazing property in the past week or so, filling bags with the bounty- us included. We came out Sunday afternoon in our church clothes and devoured the experience. What fun. I had NEVER picked apples. EVER. I had never had the pleasure of plucking an apple right from the tree and taking a big bite. So, of course I had never had the opportunity to share the experience with my husband or children. I loved every second of it. Together, we picked two bags full. We tasted one from each tree. We looked at the apples and talked about their flavor and shape and color. The teacher in me and the lover of all things nature as tools for teaching, had me in overdrive. I was like a kid in a candy store. Or rather a deranged mother trying to make every moment matter....
"( Gasp!) Kids, come quick, look at this apple the lady bugs have invaded!" ( the footsteps of children came running). Not a moment later....
"(Gasp again, even louder this time) Guys! Over Here! You have to see what that bees are doing to this one!" ( Again the children came a'runin') Seconds later....
"( Deep sigh of admiration-really dramatic now) Holy Shit! ( yes, I did say that ( I was moved,remember)) get over here"....
The children came each time, Brian too. Each time fascinated by one thing they had never seen before and then another. Always with a half eaten apple in the hands and juice running from their chins. Then off to pick more and see more.
We can home and looked through all we collected and felt blessed. So blessed.
See- for us, this necessity for Laura's family was a true gift for ours. Not just because it gave us an incredibly intimate opportunity to share and educate our children but financially too. We struggle financially. We make significant sacrifices in our lives to go without certain things so I can stay home with our children. So we can commit with our whole selves to put money away to our savings and pay ourselves first and then give to others in need before one bill is paid, one grocery is bought, or one uneccessary item is even considered. This plan has changed our lives dramatically for the past 2 years and its the best thing we've ever done.
These apples are worth something. Money. Our kids are apple eating fools- dozens and dozens could be bought and consumed weekly if we let them. And here they were in front of us- for free! This would save us quite a bit in the next two weeks on our produce budget and we realized while we were picking how these bags of apples were going to impact us. We didn't take them for granted.
We washed them together and sorted them and put some in the fridge and some in bowls for display and easy consumption and reserved many to be made into apple cake and apple sauce for our big family dinner the next week. Since then, the kids have eaten lots of apples and we've heard things like,
" I'm pretty sure I picked this one ( admiring the apple)"
"Oh this one is good."
"Can I have an apple? Oh wait, I don't have to ask- they are right here on the table just for me"
Its been lovely.
So today when I text Laura to see if I could pick a few more apples and got the go-ahead, I was eager to get there and get moving. I was alone. No kids. This work would be fast and furious. I had to get in and get out and back home to clean and prep dinner and do all the "stuff" that needed to be done. I was on the phone with a friend on the way out and she asked what kind of apples there were.
"I don't know. Red. Green. Pink. Yellow. Big. Little." It didn't matter to me what kinds- they were all going to be delicious!
I pulled in and could hear the construction at the house. I made my way to the grove with my bag and immediately felt a change in my body as I walked into it. I had given myself a time frame to be there. 20 minutes. I had too much to do. I was anxious. A feeling I all too often have. But as I walked into the shaded grove and felt the sprinkles of the rains that had come only a few hours before drip down on me as I walked under the branches, something changed. A wave of calm came over me. A relaxed feeling. Perhaps it was the realization I was all alone. Maybe it was the beauty of the sun shining through these trees and the sight of the glistening apples when only two hours before there was a downpour. Who knows, maybe it was God and just a moment I would get to have with Him.
"No, couldn't be that....I have things to do, get to it. " I thought to myself.
Usually that anxious feeling returns immediately after one of these peaceful ones but this time it didn't. Instead, my heart was open and my mind was focused and for the 20 quick minutes I was there, I was someplace I hadn't been in awhile. I was content with this exact moment. As someone who is actively searching for more of these moments and a blogger and person who likes to document it all, I was very aware of what was happening and began to take mental pictures of what was happening and really listen to my thoughts as I was having them.
I first started to think about HOW to pick the apples. On Sunday we picked the ones we could reach. The pretty, perfect ones that the kids could handle easily. I never even considered the ones up high or the ones that had already fallen to the ground. Today however, I stood and looked at the tree. Instead of thinking of which apples I wanted, I thought of which apples the tree NEEDED me to pick. Laura was right, the weight of the apples on these delicate trees was not only weighing the trees down but straining them to the point of almost breaking.
I had a conversation with a fellow mama on the playground the other day.We talked about our lives right now and as I raced to the branches that were strained to the point of breaking to try and alleviate the burden of their fruit, I thought about that conversation. I directly saw my friend as I picked apples and thought of how I could help her alleviate just alittle of the strain her "fruits" were giving her at this challenging time in her life. I thought of how often I felt so weighed down by the blessings in my life and how I dreamed and prayed for someone to swoop in and help take just alittle bit of the weight off- so I could have enough air to breathe and thrive-not just survive. I thought of the weight I am currently losing as Brian and I have committed to a nutritional plan and with each pound I take off of my "trunk", I am not just lighting the physical load I bear but my stress to my body and to my mind and to my always aching feet. In my head I talked to the tree ( ok, I may have actually talked alittle out loud too) and looked around seeing which branches needed me the most. I went to those first and did what I could, trying not to take too much but just enough. Who needs me next? Where next should I go? Who needs just alittle help, who needs alot?
Instead of just picking the low, perfect apples I had on Sunday- I chose to look way up high. Much higher than eye level. When I looked someplace new, I realized how many beautiful apples I had missed on Sunday. How many I never even saw. This deep moment brought me to an inner battle I've been fighting for years and struggling to work through everyday. My judgements of others. Often I just see whats on the surface-at eye level. I look only there and make an assumption and never get to see the truth behind something. ( You know what they say when you assume? It makes an ASS out of U and ME.) I don't always see the beauty of a situation or a person that is right in front of me because I'm not looking at the whole person or moment but through it instead. In this moment, I was there. I saw the beauty up high and I reached for those. I stood on my tippy toes ( which is not easy for me with these screws in them) and I stretched myself. Stretched to look past what everyone else saw and see something new. I even climbed a tree. Yes Brian, that's what I just write. I. CLIMBED. A.TREE. to pick a perfect apple that was calling my name ( pretty sure he would have paid money to see that). I got just the one apple I wanted and left dozens more for some other mom having a crazy,spiritual day or a kid who saw the same large seperated trunk and viewed it as the perfect climbing tree with a treasure of apples at the top. The apple I chose was glistening in the sun through some branches. It had water from the rains all over it and it was perfect, Just for me. I climbed up and stretched again to reach for it. I pulled it off and with it came a very long stem, part of the branch and quite a few leaves.
"oops" I thought.
I didn't mean to take the whole tree with me. And then "DEEP KATIE BRAIN" went into action and I realized this too was my world. With good intentions, sometimes I take more than I meant to or more than I should have. Sometimes nothing bad comes from it. Something there are negative consequences. I looked at my apple. I wished it had been alittle lower so I wouldn't have taken so much. I wished I knew more about the perfect way to pick. I wished I had googled how to pick apples and taught a lesson to my kids the way my friend Lisa had when she went to pick apples last week. Damn. Would that branch grow more fruit in that spot next year or did I take some of its life? I wished, I wished. I dwelled for a moment. I regretted. Then I realized I could do nothing about what I had done. I couldn't change the outcome. I needed to be at peace with what I could do and learn from it and move on. let go of what was out of my control and hold on to what was. If you saw this apple you would probably never think it was "perfect". Here is a picture of it I snapped when I got it home.
I didn't just look high but I looked low. Not the ones that were perfect for little toddler hands. No, those I saved- knowing and hoping many other children-even the smallest- would come out here and have the experience I would. Those were sacred for the sweet little ones. No, I reached for apples that had already fallen to the ground. They were everywhere. I could see the ones that were rotting already and was grateful they would go back to the soil and help make next year's trees all the more special. I loved watching the insects that were already devouring these fallen fruits. I thought of how happy they must be to have them. And the animals in the evening and when no humans are around. There were no apples on this tree last year. The late frost took them all from us. I looked at the bees and bugs and wondered if they too felt overly blessed and weren't taking these apples for granted. When I would pick an apple, sometimes another apple or two would fall down to the ground as well. I searched for those. As if they were mine to have. I didn't want them to go to waste. And even if I saw a bruise, I took it. While they might not make the perfect eating apple whole, I didn't just see the bruised part. Instead, I was able to see that this apple could make a delicious apple cake and feed my family at my dad's birthday party. They could be turned into applesauce and saved to savor months from now. These apples on the ground had purpose as well. The ones I overlooked and even ignored on Sunday were now the ones I couldn't wait to bring home. To see differently and make useful.
Brian and I had hoped, after reading a blog POST of a friend this week, we would be able to use Laura's apples to make our annual, homemade Christmas gift. As I stood under these trees, stretched high and bent low, I realized these apples wouldn't be just mine...wouldn't just be seen in lunchboxes and consumed by my family but would be treasured and loved and labored. They would be turned into something new now and saved. They would be touched dozens of times as our family worked together to create something new from them and make them just so and they would be shared. With our beloved neighbors. With co-workers. With our garbage and recyling guys and our mail lady and our karate teacher. They would be distributed to our cherished friends and our pastors and some to complete strangers....like the people at the drive through on Christmas Day who we might surprise with a gift and a generous "keep the change". I saw the smiles on people's faces who would receive their jar. I felt the hugs I might receive. I saw my kids' faces lighting up with excitement and anticipation as we go on our rounds through the 'hood or go on our top secret missions to surprise someone and make their day. See-these apples weren't just a blessing to me financially or spiritually. They were so much more. They had power within them and I knew, I just knew- I was given the chance to use that power.
I put the last apple in the bag. It was my "perfect" one. Even as I picked others after, I kept in in my hand. I didn't want to lose it. I wanted to remember it. I wanted it to be on top. I stood up and looked at my watch. 22 minutes had passed. WOW. It felt like a moment but also felt like I must have been there for much longer as I had experienced so much. I looked to my mini-van, stained carpets and stuff and a true symbol of my mommy life, and then back at the trees and just said outloud,
To the trees for their beauty and their fruit and countless blessings.
To Laura and her family for sharing this gift.
To this private moment I got to have and the opportunity I have to share it.
And to God- for these reminders I just know He had a part in. These Godwink moments that force us to stop and breathe and truly live.