A Blogazine, based out of Park Slope, Brooklyn, that features fun and interesting articles. Topics include: parenting, society, real estate, career, style, spirituality and more. Written contributions are always welcome!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Local Apple Orchards Feed Body AND Soul

Jen Lee's daughter at the apple orchard.

By Jen Lee

Apple-picking is one of the things I never did before becoming a New Yorker. It's now my favorite tradition. We went a couple weeks ago, while my parents were in town visiting, and the day was like a sweet dream. This is the only time we rent a car—all year—so that alone feels special to the kids. It's also the only time we drive through the city, which feels something other than special to us parents. Nonetheless, it is a full-package adventure.

We tried a new orchard this year in Princeton, NJ—one with dwarf trees. Instead of the kids having to watch grown-ups pick the apples with long poles, even the newest walker could find an apple, reach it, claim it as her own. My youngest liked to parade hers up and down the row with an uplifted arm, and a smile even more ripe than her fruit. My heart was the most uplifted thing of all, and here's why:

  • Picking our own apples connects us to the source of our food. I've been really aware of this, ever since I read Wendell Berry's essay, In Distrust of Movements, in which he writes,

      “Well, all of us who live in the suffering rural landscapes of the United States know that most people are available to those landscapes only recreationally. We see them bicycling or boating or hiking or camping or hunting or fishing or driving along and looking around. They do not, in Mary Austin’s phrase, “summer and winter with the land”. They are unacquainted with the land’s human and natural economies. Though people have not progressed beyond the need to eat food and drink water and wear clothes and live in houses, most people have progressed beyond the domestic arts — the husbandry and wifery of the world — by which those needful things are produced and conserved. In fact, the comparative few who still practise that necessary husbandry and wifery often are inclined to apologize for doing so, having been carefully taught in our education system that those arts are degrading and unworthy of people’s talents. Educated minds, in the modern era, are unlikely to know anything about food and drink, clothing and shelter. In merely taking these things for granted, the modern educated mind reveals itself also to be as superstitious a mind as ever has existed in the world. What could be more superstitious than the idea that money brings forth food?” (emphasis mine)

    Apple-picking is still a recreational connection to the land, but at least it reminds us that our food does not come from money, that it does not originate in the grocery store or even in Grand Army Plaza's farmer's market. When we give thanks to the farmers at our dinner table, we all can picture at least one such farm, can remember how it looked and smelled.

  • Picking apples escorts us into the celebration of the harvest season. Seeing the orchard stores busting with jams and fruits and pies gives us permission to stock up for the winter, to turn on the oven and bake our bodies something warm and sweet as the air around us grows cold and dry. “Bounty” is no longer an abstract concept, but something we carry in our bags that seeps somehow into a place in our chests.

  • Picking apples reminds me that I, too, am a maker, even though I make garments, or things woven with words. I tend growing children, who require sheltering and care. Growing and creating is, for me, a sacrament. It is the place I find connection and meaning. Pulling a ripe apple from the branch and enjoying it is a tangible reminder that our making and tending feeds others—in their bodies, or in their souls.

Jen Lee, a Park Slope mother of two, is the author of Don't Write: A Reluctant Journal and Solstice: Stories of Light in the Dark. She is also a regular contributor to Hip Slope Mama. You can find her writing at jenlee.net.