These perilous days of September. The sky too achingly blue, too clear, like blue bottle glass, the low angle of the sunlight giving warning. This day may be the last, but tomorrow could be too. We don’t know what will steal it away so quickly, or when or where we’ll feel it, but we know it’s coming. The perilous days, more exciting to wake up to because we know they are so fragile. Is this our last day of perfection? Will it all be gone tomorrow? It’s now or never. We feverishly squeeze in our bike rides, our weekend trips, our plans to have friends over for dinner on the porch. Between two jobs, the lazy days of summer I’ve worked all away– so I suppose these will be my lively days of September.
The apples are here. The blackberries are giving a mighty push to squeeze out the last of their fruit, and the plums have come and gone. It seems just yesterday that Mark and I, laughing and jumping like kids, reached and climbed up into the trees to grab Rainier cherries. But cherries are early summer, befitting for a plush bright fruit, sweet and colorful as sunshine, holding promise of the sweet and painted days to come.
But apples, well they’re a much different story.
I’ve been in denial about the summer being gone, protesting loudly like a frustrated toddler whenever Mark would muse on its passing. “No, it’s NOT gone,” I’d say near tantrum. But oh, now that the apples have come, I accept with solemnity and grace, much like the solemn apple itself.
I pick them up from the ground, scattered around the baseball fields near our house. I pick them up, one by one, as if they are the memories of summer days, fallen from the tree of August. They are small, some ruddy and streaked with brown sunspots and others green on one side and rosy on the other. They are smooth and warm from the sunshine. They fit like worry stones in the palm of my hand. I fill my sack, and then pluck the last of the blackberries from the bordering bushes, scratching my arms and staining my thumb and forefinger a magenta juice. I work slowly, peacefully, with an inward-turning energy that appears only with the approach of Fall.
This will be the weekend of apples.
Before our weekend trip, I take the apples and salvage what I can from their bruised and worm-eaten flesh. They are sweet and tart. I put them in a cast iron skillet skin-on along with the blackberries, add honey, butter and cook them into a rustic compote that we have for dessert over vanilla ice cream. We then toss a few Granny Smiths, a Pink Lady and a Gala into our bag for the trip. These will go with us, hiker-friendly food for September.
The next morning we drive north excited to camp and excited to trek for miles in nothing but wilderness. The sun is shining. Before long we hit the Skagit Valley, known for its abundance of just about everything – blueberries, strawberries, and yes, apples. It was about lunchtime when I spotted the road sign ‘Tourist Activities’ which I typically ignore… but after those words was written ‘Winery.’ Sold. Even if the wine wasn’t great, there would be a place to picnic and have sandwiches. At the end of a long gravel drive, there was not only a winery, but another building with simple signage: Apples.
So we will take a bite with our eyes, my friends, which we forget can be just as beautiful and rich as the taste experience itself.
The apples disappeared from our backpacks, one by one, all weekend long. They saw glaciers, mountain tops and waterfalls. The trip was exhausting as we hiked for miles, all under those incredibly blue skies while suspending belief that these days would soon be gone.
Hold fast with me, take a bite and savor a bit of September.