I planted an apple tree in memory
of my mother, who is not gone,
but whose memory has become
so transparent that she remembers
slicing apples with her grandmother
(yellow apples; blue bowl) better than
the fruit that I hand her today. Still,
she polishes the surface with her thumb,
holds it to the light and says with no
hesitation, Oh, Yellow Transparent . . .
they’re so fragile, you can almost see
to the core. She no longer remembers how
to roll the crust, sweeten the sauce, but
her desire is clear—it is pie that she wants.
And so, I slice as close as I dare to the core—
to that little cathedral to memory—where
the seeds remember everything they need
to know to become yellow and transparent.
~Catherine Essinger “Summer Apples” from What I Know About Innocence
A seed hidden in the heart of an apple is an orchard invisible.
It is at late summer and harvest time when I most clearly remember my mother – she is standing for hours at the kitchen sink peeling yellow transparent apples, readying them for sauce, and always a pie.
The apples were only part of her daily work: she canned quarts and quarts of green beans, peeled the peaches and pears for canning, sauced the plums, pickled the cucumbers, jammed the strawberries and raspberries, syruped the blackberries, froze the blueberries, cut the kernels off the corn cobs, baked up the zucchini into breads and cakes, dried the filberts, dug and stored the potatoes, dehydrated the tomatoes.
Over the years I’ve stood by the sink and the stove and have done what my mother used to do, usually not as well but with the same mission of preserving what I can for another day. We have been fed from our summer labors.
I know well these trees and vines from which the fruit grows. I plant the seeds which somehow know to produce when tended and nurtured. I stand and peel and wash and boil and stir as this is what generations of my family’s women did before me.
May it ever be.