We had simple leftovers for lunch today and then we drove to an orchard, about 25 minutes from our house, and picked up six bushels of apples (some for us, and some to share) returning to a less commercialized orchard where we had shopped last year. We like those "mom and pop" venues where the folks doing the selling actually have some dirt under their finger nails, and where we can put our money in the hands of the smaller businesses.
At first, we couldn't remember the name of the orchard or exactly where it was located. Mike did a little research and remembered that it was called “Mousey’s”. We laughed and wondered about the name. Today when we pulled in to the orchard, there was an older gentleman that Mike immediately recognized as being the man we had seen on the tractor last year in a field close to the orchard. We surmised that he must be dad to the two women we met last year who sold us apples. We later found out that our hunch was correct when visitors stopped in and asked him about them. This man was quite advanced in years, very small in stature, with what could be described as a somewhat squeaky voice, as well as a little turned up face that reminds one of a little mouse. It wasn't difficult to figure out that the Orchard was named for this man who embraced his nickname. His friends and neighbors called out to him “Hi Mousey. How are you doing today?” Treating us as good as someone he had known all his life, Mousey quoted us a fair price for the apples and insisted that we fill the boxes up to the top. He said we wanted us to be satisfied when we left there.
As we talked, Mousey reported that all his Pink Lady apples were destroyed by the rains and wind that Hurricane Michael dumped on us recently. He also said the last of his potatoes rotted in the ground. This information was relayed with little emotion, just simply as fact. He was a seasoned farmer, his face weathered, and his body bent by the work of many years. Mike told him that we had bought from him last year and that we would return again next year to buy apples. He thanked us and I hoped that he would be there next year when we returned.
It’s a hard life, tending to the land, and more and more folks patronize the establishments with the gift shops, corn maze, games, rides and the winery for the adults making the whole experience more upscale and appealing to a greater audience. I don’t know the history or the future of Mousey’s orchard, but I know establishments like his are falling by the wayside with each passing year as faithful patrons age and the younger generations seek out the venues with activities to keep them entertained. One can’t blame an establishment for changing with the times. It just makes sense to be current and find ways to remake the old farms, ranches and orchards into a viable business in today’s market. For the few of us still clinging to a way of life that is fading, a no-frills orchard like Mousey’s makes us feel a little more connected both to the earth and to the man who has faithfully tended it for many years.
The preacher said the essence of Christianity does not lie in our strength, but rather in our vulnerability. He read from Isaiah 53, explaining how the chapter on suffering described the nation of Israel at the time when the book was written as well as being prophetic about the suffering of Jesus. The preacher spoke of the grace that is applied to the suffering and I thought about houseplants.
I guess the plants are on my mind this week with the cold weather that forced itself upon us rather suddenly after Hurricane Michael’s remnants blew through our area. I spent a morning this past week transplanting some of the larger, overgrown herbs into smaller containers to bring inside for the winter. I also moved some houseplants back inside, marveling at how much one particular plant had expanded and become full and beautiful. It had been almost ugly when I took it outside this spring. Long, spindly, with small, nondescript leaves that looked like they were struggling to survive, I didn’t have much hope for the plant. I cut it back to almost nothing, put it in a different pot with some fresh soil, and stuck it down underneath my herbs on the bottom part of an old crate I used as a shelf. I watered it when it needed moisture and occasionally gave it a bit of fertilizer, but mostly I paid little attention to it. When I pulled the plant out to bring it inside before the impending frost, I was amazed at how lovely it looked with large, full leaves and bright colors. Obviously, cutting it back to almost nothing and then giving it the right environment to thrive was best. The transformation was amazing.
I feel a little bit like that scraggly houseplant right now, cutting back what is familiar and making necessary changes in my life. I feel a whole lot of that vulnerability about which the preacher mentioned. That plant sitting in my window enjoying the morning sun and protected from the elements would not be as lovely had it not experienced some pruning. It hurts to be pruned and it’s not fun feeling vulnerable, but grace can take the ugliness that life deals out and transform it into something beautiful.
I have been committed to journaling for over a year now and posting my writing to my blog making it public. I don’t see my life as something that appeals to mass readership (and the stats of my blog are proof). Public approval or accolades was never my goal when I began this project. I simply wanted to be able to put down my thoughts and share my stories in a place where they would hopefully not get lost so that my children and grandchildren would some day have access to them when I am gone. I think the sharing of stories, even the most mundane things, is engrained in me. I was encouraged to read memoirs, biographies and autobiographies as a child and teenager. My maternal grandmother, who had such a strong influence on my life wrote down the simplest stories and facts so that they would not be forgotten or lost over time. When I began writing my journals and posting them online, I would print them out and mail them to her. I think this type of journaling is being lost now that we have social media and the ability to share stories immediately with a large audience. Logging the basic information of daily life is not something new. People have been doing it since the beginning of time. Having the ability to post that information immediately so that anyone in the world can see it and read it is a relatively new phenomenon however. Besides wanting my family, should they ever desire, to be able to have an unadulterated account of some of the events of my life, I also wanted to discipline myself to writing every day in an attempt to improve my writing abilities as well as find my own unique writing style and improve upon that style. Journaling online has given me that opportunity and has also allowed me to receive feed back from others which has in turn helped me to work on being a better writer. Most likely, I will never be a professional writer but I have the heart of a writer and it is important to me to be able to create using the written word. It matters not to me what the subject, as long as I have opportunity to write. So, to those who have taken the time to read the things I have written over the last year and a half in this experiment of online journaling, I thank you for being so supportive and giving me this opportunity.
I will still be here on Mondays, posting a few short stories and I welcome your feedback and constructive criticism as I continue to write. We will see where this takes me and what kinds of stories I find to share. For me, as long as I’m writing, I’m content.