A Day at the Orchard

On a sunny afternoon a few weeks ago I took a drive out of town, just across the Territory line and into the yellow fields of my beloved valley. Every year one of the local fruit orchards, Loriendale, holds an open day - the one day of the year when people are free to visit and wander, learn and explore. There are musical performances, apple crushing demonstrations and so much food. With a sandwich and drink in hand, I sat myself under the shade of a big old tree and watched the festivities unfold from afar. I watched old friends and new, country neighbours and city folk. Everyone has a smile on their face, including me. It sounds wonderful, doesn’t it? It really is, but this isn’t my favourite part of the day, it isn't the reason I come back year after year. As the crowd and the music begin to swell, I dust myself off and slip into the quiet orchards beyond the main yard.

There is just something about wandering through an apple orchard. It's the smell of life in all stages, the way the dappled light drapes itself over fallen fruit and the softness of the sounds. Oh, the sounds. The noise of the party fades until there is nothing to hear but the flutter of wings, the buzz of the bees and the light crackle of dried grass underfoot. Softly, softly. The loudest thing around is the glorious sunshine so I raise a hand to my warm brow and shield my eyes from the glare. For as far as I can see, row upon row of fruit trees. Apples, the likes of which I have never seen nor tasted nor even heard of before. Varying in sizes and colours from large and blushing to small and darker than blood. Meandering through the orchard, I feel myself beginning to sympathise with poor Eve. A snake really wasn’t necessary, the allure solely resting with the apple itself. A free meal, bright and full of promise, begging to be plucked from a beautiful, heaving bough. The temptation is too great to resist. Who could blame her?

The eating of an apple is really an exercise in mindfulness, a focusing of all the senses on one simple action. Beginning with eager eyes seeking out the one apple that stands out from thousands, a firm twist and pull and it is all yours. Cupping the fruit in both hands, the way you would touch the face of a lover, and raising it to inhale the terrior, the place, the life of the thing. Running dusty fingers over taut skin, searching for signs of whether the birds have beaten you to it and smiling with anticipation of the crisp flesh hidden beneath. A quick scrub of the fruit on your shirtsleeve or pant leg and now you’re ready for the main event, a sensory explosion. Teeth break through ruby red skin to find the flesh that provides the ever satisfying crunch that fills your ears and the empty rows around you. A perfect measure of sweet and tart savoured in silence as the odd burst of juice escapes the corners of your mouth.

Later that afternoon, I sat in the close quarters of my apartment and listened to the muffled sounds of the city drifting up and over the balcony. Closing my eyes, I could still taste the apple on my lips and feel the sun and dirt on my face. The remnants of a good day.