When I tire of insensitivity, of conflict, of throw-away habits, thoughtlessness, pointless destruction of living things and beauty . . . I travel in mind and spirit to my log cabin in Maine, to the land that taught me how to belong to its majesty, its struggle, its power.
October 19, 1979
This morning, the first five female mergansers are diving in front of my window. The males will come soon. Rebecca reports seeing the same seal again just as the eagle appeared. In what other life could one have such companions between chores?
Rain, giving me a respite from two days apple-picking in Robbinston. Forty-four bushels at 50¢ each. Gene gave me a bag of pears and green gage plums. “How many bushels you got today?” “Seventeen, I think, but you count.” “No, I'll take your word for it.” He was to start trapping today, racoon and fox. “Wasn't much fox last yeah, plenty yeah befoah. When there get too many they get mange. A mite gets under the skin ‘n they scratch and the fur come off. They get all scabs and die.” He's trapped for years, averages $20 a pelt untreated for racoon and is buying skins this year from other trappers. “Lotsa times somebody'll kill somethin' and ‘ll bring it by when it hasn't been skun ‘n he don't know how.”
I arrived too early yesterday morning and the apples were sparkling with frost. “You can't pick ‘em when they're froze like that, it'll make a bruise. They're all right soon's the sun's warmed ‘em. They c'n stand, oh, down to 22 degrees.” So we walked the orchard talking trees, “Deer eat the ends off for me, I don't do no prunin'! Bear break the branches, raccoons get into the plums. I had ta pick ‘em before they was ripe. They'll break up a tree somethin' awful. He showed me how to graft. “You c'n take a sucker from any tree, dig it up, roots ‘n all ‘n plant it ‘n that's y'r root stock. Then you take a branch, should be ‘bout the same size ez y'r root stock (diameter) ‘n you notch it, like this ‘n cut a slit in each ‘n put ‘em together (they lock in place). Should have the cambiums together (at the thin tip of each cut) then wrap em good ‘n tight. I use masking tape. You c'n soak ‘em with that tree stuff, but you don't need to. You wanta do it just when the sap's runnin' in spring before the buds swell. You c'n make an apple big by loadin' it with nitrogen, but its mealy ‘n got no taste. These delicious‘re small, but they got flavor, better‘n them California apples.” We agreed that the time to eat them was after they've been stored a while. A good keeping apple. “Golden delicious bruise easy, mac's too.” He sells to the supermarkets. “Well,” biting into another cold apple to test it, “I guess we c'n start now, see it's all turned to dew on ‘em now.”
October 20, 1979
Picked apples all day with my collie for company. I sigh and groan
Frost stimulates the tree to make a natural break between stem and branchlet so that one sharp upward twist breaks the apple clean. As I ‘unload' each heavy branch it springs upward as if sighing with relief to be light and free once more. At the very tip of one branch, I found five big apples, grown tightly together around an abandoned warbler nest, making in my mind's eye an image of the blossomed bough where in spring that warbler pair chose to build and lay its eggs, nurturing the young until they fledged, as apples formed and grew. We are alone together, Ashika and I, breathing crisp, sweet air, among the brilliantly appled trees, in the peace of this high hillside above the sparkling, blue expanse of Passamaquoddy Bay.
The son came struggling through the mud, tractor tires mired in deep brown goo, to take my full boxes to the barn. Ashika guards my boxes, barks ferociously until I hold him. Twenty-three bushels today.
Returning along the trail, Ashika alongside, a rosy sun setting, the new moon beginning to glow high in a clear blue sky - after so much grey - I felt a sudden pang of joy - and thought, “It's been a long time since that familiar sense of well-being flooded through me. What am I so happy about? I'm going home alone to chores, cook dinner and go to bed alone!” But I am happy . . . alone tonight. Thank you lord.