Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Picking Apples, Seeking Grace

I was picking apples today from the ancient apple tree in my yard -- you might see them scattered around the base and beneath the hammock. Since they're a late-season variety, they really aren't edible until there's been a freeze or two -- now they're ripening nicely. There's a lot of competition for these apples and between worms, bees, crows, and the dozen or so wild turkeys that drop by occasionally, I have to be diligent if I want to be anything but the local purveyor of free fruit.

Most of the ones on the ground have been picked over, nibbled, and are turning to nature's version of apple sauce. But today I did good and managed to find a bagful for my neighbor who had generously shared some zucchini and yellow squash with me from his garden a few weeks ago. As a child, I read enviously about characters who wandered through their orchards, picking apples from the trees.

What strikes me now is the ordinariness of doing such a thing. Not in the sense that I've grown accustomed and it's become commonplace, but rather, it's less romantic than in seemed through the eyes of Louisa May Alcott or Henry David Thoreau. And that's a good thing because now picking apples from a tree that grows a few paces from my house is free to become an agent of grace.

On film, encounters with transcendence are rarely the kind of thing with which most of us can identify. The wrath of God wiping away Nazi soldiers in Raiders of the Lost Ark makes for great cinema, but if we rely on drama as a guide, we miss the real nature of mystery. Elizabeth Barrett Browning said, "Earth's crammed with heaven, and every common bush afire with God; but only he who sees takes off his shoes." As long as we're looking for Industrial Light and Magic, it's too easy to overlook what's happening right at our feet.

(Photo by the author)

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