I love my home town. No, I really love my home town. Winding roads, acres of conservation land, apple orchards, extreme religious movements; it's got it all.
I woke up with too much to do. Unpack, unpack, unpack -- first of all. But also, phone calls and work and gardening and house cleaning and writing and all that life maintenance stuff we have to squeeze into the weekends. So when I found out that Karen and Claire (and Andy and Katie) were together in Massachusetts, I started to plot my escape from New York.
Turns out it didn't take much more than suggesting a rendez-vous to go apple picking in Harvard. And so Josh and I woke up and hit the road. The drive from New York is stressful stressful stressful annoying annoying annoying stressful annoying glimmer of hope nice patch of birch trees wish I was there already getting closer I love it around here breathe deep this is my territory here I am home home home home home.
The stress at the start is worth it because I know how great it's going to be when I get there. I guess that's what's great about being a person instead of, say, a dog, who doesn't know what's at the end of the rainbow. This trip was different from most because I didn't plan it at all, and I didn't tell anyone who actually lives in my town that I was coming. I just got in the car and drove -- radio playing, northward bound. As we got closer we started homing in on a plan: Karen, Andy, Katie, Josh and I would meet at crazy Phil's, state cider champ, to pick up some unpasteurized cider. Phil only had a little cider left (it was a very tough year for apples) so he was limiting how much cider people could buy at a time. We got three 1/2 gallons (bound for my freezer) and headed over to Doe's Orchard to pick apples.
When you grow up in an apple town, you don't actually go apple picking at the big orchards. Instead, you have some trees and your friends have small orchards, and you end up with plenty of apples. It wasn't until I moved away that I ever went back and went picking at the big orchards -- Carlson, Westward, Doe. The thing about the big orchards is that they almost make you feel like a tourist, but also -- they are vast and beautiful. Rows and rows and acres and acres of trees bearing Empire, Rome, Cortland, Macoun, and other varieties I don't think of as real apples, but who am I to judge if someone likes a Red Delicious?
We got some bags, and we headed in to the orchard, and all those doubts I've had about whether or not I can find joy were far far from my mind, because I was in my deepest place with my deepest people -- elbow deep in apple trees, laughing and tasting and (ssshhhh) sometimes climbing.
After a while Claire showed up with her daughter Camille and her friend Nora, and everything good about the day so far got even better. More bags, more apples, more trees to climb. Camille said she felt like skipping through the orchard, and we were off. When we got to the bottom of the hill, we had found the Empires, way down in a corner we hadn't explored.
And the day got even better from there. We walked in Holy Hill -- conservation land that I adore. The leaves were turning some, but mostly they were crunchy under our shoes, and the light coming through the woods was just perfectly Fall. I even got to see my sister for about 10 minutes, when she came over to meet us for a bit before we headed out to get some dinner in a nearby town.
After dinner, Josh and I still didn't know if we were going to stay up in Harvard or drive back to NY. He has a gig in the Bronx on Sunday afternoon, so we have to get back pretty early. But we thought we'd see if our good friends wanted overnight guests. We also thought we'd see a movie. We also thought we'd drive home. We had called our friends earlier in the day, but they weren't home. With nothing to tether us, we decided that it felt so good to be home that we'd just trust it, and stay the night -- even if we had to end up in a motel somewhere. We were just about to go to a movie (Argo) when our friends called and told us to come on over.
So we headed back to Harvard through the back roads of Berlin, and on our way, the sky started to flash. At first I thought it was the start of an electrical storm, but then as we came over the crest of a hill, we saw it: a full fireworks display, in the middle of nowhere, for as far as we could tell, no reason. Just a beautiful Fall night in Central Massachusetts.
I know this post is reading more like a diary entry than an essay, and I'm not making deep connections to mussar middot (this week we are on Patience: Do not aggravate a situation with wasted grief) or to much of anything, actually. I think what's happening is that I'm just relaxed and happy to be here, drawing joy and comfort from the beauty of the home I grew up in. And for today, that's enough.