“If you go slowly enough, six or seven months is an eternity—if you let it be—if you forget old things, and learn new ones. Even a week can last forever.”
Rick Bass, Winter

"In the midst of winter, I finally learned that there was in me an invincible summer."
Albert Camus

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Part II, Day Nine: Under Wild Apple Trees

In the North Country, where Zoe and I live, many public nature preserves used to be farms.  Abandoned apple trees and crumbling remnants of old walls can be found beside the newer cherry and tamarack and birch.  Under the scratchings of deer, snowshoe hare, and vole are paths along which people once carried buckets of water and hope into their homes.

Sometimes on a walk with Zoe I like to look for these wild apple trees.  When I spot them, I remember to think of time in centuries, even as I try to squeeze everything I can from each moment of each hour.

Today I found a great quote from Louise Erdrich's Painted Drum:
wild apples in the North Country
Life will break you.  Nobody can protect you from that, and living alone won't either, for solitude will also break you with its yearning.  You have to love.  You have to feel.  It is the reason you are here on earth.  You are here to risk your heart.  You are here to be swallowed up.  And when it happens that you are broken, or betrayed, or left, or hurt, or death brushes near, let yourself sit by an apple tree and listen to the apples falling all around you in heaps, wasting their sweetness.  Tell yourself you tasted as many as you could.
Sometimes in late autumn Zoe and I pick up an apple from one of these old trees on the ghosts of farms that we walk through on public land.  She doesn't really know it's food.  She'll carry it like a ball, or I'll kick a fallen, bruised one her way to see if she wants to run and chase or be chased.

Their smell sweetens the air as we walk at Indian Creek Nature Preserve.

Today, the sky is in the water, like something we could swim to, and drink.  We hear the first parties of geese, the flock's scouts, preparing to bring the whole country of them back to set up camp here in our habitat alongside beaver lodges and quivering cattails.  It's always a triumphant return like a military parade, or the rhapsodic overture from an epic film, and yet it always seems to catch me by surprise in my throat.  I'm never ready when the season's magnetic pulse grabs hold again.

Around us, buds fatten up a little more each day.  They are heart-like fists reaching upward, and I think of something Maddie said on our walk the other day: how the white patch on Zoe's chest underneath the dangling purple heart looks like a heart too.

We are on this earth to love and to feel and to risk our hearts and be swallowed up again and again.

I don't think any of that sweetness is ever really wasted.

And now I find it every day, in the most ordinary and unexpected places.