Tuesday, September 7, 2010

After Apple-picking

Every year, our grandsons help us pick the apples from our tree.

This year, we had lots of apples.

I think the abundance came because of the winter's abundant snows.
 I imagine that as the snow melted slowly, it strengthened the trees' roots.

It's fun to pick apples.
The great, dark poet Robert Frost wrote a poem called "After Apple-picking," though it is depressing, it expresses the deep, sad frustration of recognizing work that is left undone.  It begins:

MY long two-pointed ladder’s sticking through a tree
Toward heaven still,
And there’s a barrel that I didn’t fill
Beside it, and there may be two or three
Apples I didn’t pick upon some bough.

 I loved to teach the poem and to read it,

 though it is depressing and makes one think the poem's speaker had a great deal of hard cider after picking his apples.

But I am done with apple-picking now.
Essence of winter sleep is on the night,
The scent of apples: I am drowsing off.
I cannot rub the strangeness from my sight
I got from looking through a pane of glass        10
I skimmed this morning from the drinking trough
And held against the world of hoary grass.
It melted, and I let it fall and break.
But I was well
Upon my way to sleep before it fell,        15
And I could tell
What form my dreaming was about to take.
Magnified apples appear and disappear,
Stem end and blossom end,
And every fleck of russet showing clear

 I love the details he includes and if you've ever gone apple-picking,

 the sensory bits of the poem bring it all back:
My instep arch not only keeps the ache,
It keeps the pressure of a ladder-round.
I feel the ladder sway as the boughs bend.

To me, apple-picking is a joyful thing, gathering the gift of fruit grown at home. But the poet sees what is left undone. 

 I understand this, also because I am a human being and because I have goals and ideas that seem to be just beyond my reach. 

And I keep hearing from the cellar bin
The rumbling sound        25
Of load on load of apples coming in.
For I have had too much
Of apple-picking: I am overtired
Of the great harvest I myself desired.
There were ten thousand thousand fruit to touch,        30
Cherish in hand, lift down, and not let fall.
For all
That struck the earth,
No matter if not bruised or spiked with stubble,
Went surely to the cider-apple heap        35
As of no worth.

But my  ladder holds two 

or three. 

It's true that the apples are not perfect.  

Some have been nibbled by squirrels, some have little holes and spots. Some are bruised because every apple Jack picked he threw as far as he could -- they bounced across the grass and onto the sidewalk.  Some are small and misshapen, but it seems to me this heap of apples gathered with the help of willing hands is worth much, even if cider it makes. After all, cider is made from pressing every last big of juice and life from apples discarded. Finding the life in something that looks worthless seems something to rejoice about. 

And of course, the poem is about death as many poems are. The reference to the woodchuck is because he has already gone into hibernation. The man is soon to follow, but the "long sleep" is the poet's way of saying that death is coming on:

One can see what will trouble
This sleep of mine, whatever sleep it is.
Were he not gone,
The woodchuck could say whether it’s like his        40
Long sleep, as I describe its coming on,
Or just some human sleep.

I appreciate the poet's skill and the way the poet has portrayed  the idea of leaving work still to do when he can no longer do it. It's an important human idea.

But really apple-picking is fun,

even on a hot, buggy day.

I think Mark Twain, the adventurer, better captured my feeling when apple-picking.

You have to be brave enough to climb into the tree.

And reach for the apples that are way up high. 

As Mark Twain said once"Why not go out on a limb? That's where the fruit is." 

Then you can make them, faulty or perfect, into apple cake or apple sauce...


  1. Such cute pictures! And a nice poem too.


  2. Mrs. Nebbia! I occasionally read your blog and it makes me so happy...it reminds me that there is a big world going on outside of 'college land'. Thanks!!

    Angela Davis