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November 15, 2012

Election Day thoughts

Cooperstown Crier

---- — I have voted, and despite my strong feelings about who the winner should be, I intend to focus on other things the rest of the day. Let the talking heads spin themselves into rhetorical dizziness until the wee hours of the morning. The sun is shinning. There are some late fall chores to turn to. I look forward to an outside day preoccupied with sunny thoughts. A friend in New York City called a while ago and much of our conversation revolved around how embarrassed and ashamed each of us is over the despicable nature of political and civil discourse these days.

Neither of us wants to emulate an ostrich, but the tone of most public discourse is nasty and inhumane. One of these days we might just rediscover the value of community and communitarian values. At any rate, my friend turned to his law practice and I will soon turn to firewood stacking and dreaming a bit about the apples I never picked this fall.

People often ask about how things are going up here on the hill. Most of the place is tucked in for the winter. I am still splitting and stacking firewood, a chore I love, despite the toll it takes on the body. Given a few more dry days we will be set for the next three years. Friends who know my methods think I am crazy, if not foolish, not to rent or borrow a wood splitter. Perhaps I will get there some day. Just not ready. Besides, I hesitate to borrow such an expensive tool, fearing doing it unintended damage. Renting one does not appeal to me because it costs money, requires picking up, using gasoline, making a heck of a lot of noise, and then has to be retuned. I would rather go about things slowly, quietly, and without contributing to an already overloaded carbon footprint. I have no quarrel with anyone else’s use of a splitter. It just does not fit my philosophical bill. 

There is something ineffably pleasurable about getting the physics of the meeting between splitting maul and drum just right. When the hit is just right and the drum cracks into two nearly identical pieces I feel pretty darn good about myself. Little need be said about miss hits and drums that defy all manner of persuasion. It is then that my language becomes peppered with expletive-laced phrasings learned long ago from some of the U.S. Navy’s finest non-com linguists.

By this time most years I have gathered in bushels of wild apples. Most all are dried, stored in jars and freezer bags, and shelved for future use. I have always loved nibbling on dried fruit, but this year most of my nibbling will be in mind only. A nearby orchard lost close to 70 percent of its crop to the early freeze and subsequent hailstorm. Our fruit trees all blossomed early so when the freeze hit we lost most of the crop. One dwarf peach tree produced seven peaches! Nothing to write home about, but they sure did taste good.

The roadsides I walk are normally rich with wild apples of all sizes, shapes, and colors. I carry a backpack that is usually filled by the time I get home. After several days of walks the kitchen counter is flooded with apples. We have a small, inexpensive dryer that does the job well, so in a few days we have packed away quite a few bags. I enjoy the walking and picking much more than the peeling, slicing and coring part of the job. I like looking at them as well, but that only goes on so long before Sandy gives me that look and I have to get to work. The rules here are straightforward: you pick ‘em, you process ‘em. I admit to being more excited about the aesthetics of such activities than the work part of it.

On my walk later today there will be no apples to pick. But their absence does not preclude dreaming. Unlike the narrator on Robert Frost’s poem “After Apple-Picking,” this year I will not tire of a harvest I had so looked forward to. The trees are bare of apples, but my imagination can fill up a tree with beautiful golden apples any time I wish. Besides, I have a storehouse of memories from previous gatherings.

On this walk I will dream of a country that my friend and I can feel a bit better about. I can think of our potential, the unlimited possibilities that exist when we work together while putting aside differences. Diversity need not breed division. Difference need not breed contempt. Back to the wood-pile.