By John Borroughs
The apple is the commonest and yet the most varied and beautiful
of fruits. A dish of them is as becoming to the center table in
winter as is the vase of flowers in summer--a bouquet of
Spitzenbergs and Greenings and Northern Spies.
A rose when it blooms, the apple is a rose when it ripens. It
pleases every sense to which it can be addressed,--the touch, the
smell, the sight, the taste; and when it falls in the still
October days it pleases the ear. It is a call to a banquet,--it
is a signal that the feast is ready. The bough would fain hold
it, but it can now assert its independence; it can now live a
life of its own.
Daily the stem relaxes its hold, till finally it lets go
completely, and down comes the painted sphere with a mellow thump
to the earth, toward which it has been nodding so long.
It will now take time to meditate and ripen! What delicious
thoughts it has there, nestled with its fellows under the fence,
turning acid into sugar, and sugar into wine!
How pleasing to the touch. I love to stroke its polished rondure
with my hand, to carry it in my pocket on my tramp over the
winter hills, or through the early spring woods. You are company,
you redcheek Spitz or you salmon-fleshed Greening! I toy with
you, press your face to mine, toss you in the air, roll you on
the ground, see you shine out where you lie amid the moss and dry
leaves and sticks.
You are so alive! You glow like a ruddy flower. You look so
animated I almost expect to see you move! I postpone the eating
of you, you are so beautiful! How compact, how exquisitely
tinted! Stained by the sun and varnished against the rains. An
independent vegetable existence, alive and vascular as my own
flesh; capable of being wounded, bleeding, wasting away, or
almost repairing damages!
How they resist the cold! holding out almost as long as the red
cheeks of the boys do. A frost that destroys the potatoes and
other roots only makes the apple more crisp and vigorous; they
peep out from the chance November snows unscathed.
When I see the fruit vender on the street corner stamping his
feet and beating his hands to keep them warm, and his naked
apples lying exposed to the blasts, I wonder if they do not ache,
too, to clap their hands and enliven their circulation. But they
can stand it nearly as long as the vender can.
Noble common fruit, best friend of man and most loved by him,
following him like his dog or his cow, wherever he goes! His
homestead is not planted till you are planted; your roots
intertwine with his; thriving best where he thrives best, loving
the limestone and the frost, the plow and the pruning knife,
you are indeed suggestive of hardy, cheerful industry, and a
healthy life in the open air.
Do you remember the apple hole in the garden or back of the
house, Ben Bolt? In the fall, after the bins in the cellar had
been well stocked, we excavated a circular pit in the warm,
mellow earth, and covering the bottom with clean rye straw,
emptied in basketful after basketful of hardy choice varieties,
till there was a tent-shaped mound several feet high, of shining,
Then wrapping it about with a thick layer of long rye straw, and
tucking it up snug and warm, the mound was covered with a thin
coating of earth, a flat stone on top holding down the straw. As
winter set in, another coating of earth was put upon it, with
perhaps an overcoat of coarse, dry stable manure, and the
precious pile was left in silence and darkness till spring. How
the earth tempers and flavors the apples! It draws out all the
acrid, unripe qualities, and infuses into them a subtile,
refreshing taste of the soil.
As the supply in the bins and barrels gets low, and spring
approaches, the buried treasures in the garden are remembered.
With spade and ax we go out, and penetrate through the snow and
frozen earth till the inner dressing of straw is laid bare. It is
not quite as clear and bright as when we placed it there last
fall, but the fruit beneath, which the hand soon exposes, is just
as bright and far more luscious.
Then, as day after day you resort to the hole, and removing the
straw and earth from the opening, thrust your arm into the
fragrant pit, you have a better chance than ever before to become
acquainted with your favorites by the sense of touch. How you
feel for them reaching to the right and left.
When you were a schoolboy you stowed them away in your pockets,
and ate them along the road and at recess, and again at noon
time; and they, in a measure, corrected the effects of the cake
and pie with which your mother filled your lunch basket.
--Adapted "Winter Sunshine."
Meditate, to reflect.
Rondure, state of being round.
Exquisitely, with great perfection.
Vascular, made up of small vessels.
Unscathed, not injured.
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