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.” ~Louise Erdrich
I have long been fascinated with how and why we choose partners but being new to the world of singledom has made my interest more personal. Today, more than any other day, relationships and our journey through them played through my head like a personal opera. The catalyst? Good ol’ apple picking! Now, everyone has been there and done that in regards to the analogy of life to fruits, especially apples. For example, this is one of the many famous quotes in the netosphere about apples and relationships,
Like many things of interest and note, I often like to collect quotes and/or utilize them as reminders for all things life. However, at the end of the day, they are just words and yet another piece of information that sometimes get lost and found again in the mix of things. Today changed all of that for me with regards to this apple picking analogy and how we pick people in our lives.
I initially fell in love with apple picking when I encountered it for the first time in 2010. Today was my third encounter and at first I was not thrilled. A few members of our Enchanted Halloween committee decided to meet up to pick apples for the annual fundraiser. I felt the coldness and promise of wetness long before going outside. A few minutes after waking up, I watched the misty gray fog blanket the Vermont hills and mountains and noticed the elementary school kids shuffling to get inside of the school across the street from the house. Yep, I was not in a rush to go apple picking especially in the cold rain. Oddly enough, I was not cranky about it as I slowly put on my clothes and rain boots with a “I signed up for this so don’t bitch” attitude.
After arriving to the orchard the hesitation of the rain droplets transformed to a light downfall so deceptive that I did not realize I was drenched until the end of this adventure! Initially I whined about being cold, wet and not being able to feel my fingers while we tried to earnestly search for apples that mostly seemed to be at top. Most of the bottom branches were left bare from much of the season’s apple picking. My companions and I looked somewhat puzzled armed with apple picking sticks to help us reach the top branches but it did not solve the problem of filling several bushels within a couple of hours. Within minutes, Sab suggested a solution “We have to get in the trees, I will climb the tree.” Within moments, Sab was sitting in one of the trees, shaking/tapping them to encourage the fruit to fall. All of the most beautiful and juiciest apples of the bunch fell to the ground followed by a huge THUMP and THUD sound. Some scattered, others stayed in close proximity making it easy to spot them for our pickings.
As this process continued I witnessed my own connection to this experience. At one point, Sab asked me to stand beneath her as she would pick the apples from the top because they were becoming so bruised upon hitting the ground. “I am skittish I don’t want to get hit” I told her as I tried to protectively position myself underneath the potential avalanche of apples. This was not foolproof as I came in contact with an occasional thump upon my head, arms or toes. My hesitation in not wanting to get soaked was tossed out as well as reaching for apples or clusters of apples often came with the promise of my face getting soaked with cold rainwater. Yet, I laughed, smiled, screamed out a couple of times from getting knocked around by the falling apples. I chuckled at how easily I was tricked by many alluring Courtlands hanging upon the eye-level branches that were perfect until my fingers sunk into open gashes hidden from plain sight. There were also many moments I used my five-foot apple picking stick in an attempt to grab the highest apples. Many times, in spite of my restriction of my short arms, I did not give up trying to twist the apples away from the branches.
I smiled heartily many times drenched with a combination of squashed apples upon my fingers and rain boots comingled with the October rain as I realized that the apple orchard was the manifestation of human relationship. In fact, the process of the apple picking is intertwined with our journeys to /within/and away many of our intimate couplings. We are many times afraid to get knocked or bruised yet it happens inevitably during our journey. Sometimes we fall with the announcement of a thump, especially if our branches are shaken by a lover/family member/friend/etc. Other times, we lazily grab what is nearest to us or court many of the rotten apples that have fallen to the ground only to realize that the fruit is not as sweet as working to get to the top. Many times, we get so confused or overwhelmed with all of the choices that some of us either grab as many as we can risking relationship bellyache or we stand in the middle of the orchard not sure of where or how to start.
True to my approach to some of my personal relationships, I was too afraid to climb a tree as I imagined the possible pain/bruising from falling while I watched others in our group bravely take to climbing to ensure that we picked the best apples. However, I still reached for the apples that hung high and eventually, I anticipated the clusters of apples that fell around me as I gently shook the branches. As I worked to get to the highest branches, getting wet or tapped by apples in the process was a friendly welcome in exchange for the fruit I yielded from the top branches. Perhaps next time I will climb the tree to experience taking the chance. Yes, there will always be that fear of falling, but how do you know that you will fall or what bruises you will acquire if you never attempt to pick the best fruit that hangs the highest?