I pick apples, out of the trees, with a ladder now because the lower fruit is long gone, and off the ground, which is a treacherous carpet of drops that roll under my feet like ball bearings.
I fill an old woven reed basket my youngest sister Meg gave me years ago, a foot and a half across with a sturdy wooden handle and more than enough room to hold a sauce batch worth of apples. This basket has held vegetables and fruit from my yard for decades. Lucky me.
I think about staying home for more than a few days in a row, or a week even, and I think I want to, but then don’t. But when I am home for more than a day or two I find myself gathering apples and running them through the corer-peeler-slicer gadget that Melia brought home the weekend of Chris’s service and I’ve kept since. With an apple loaded on the pronged shaft, I turn the crank and magic happens — the apple comes out the other side of ingeniously arranged blades peeled, cored and sliced into thin rings. The peel makes one long, looping coil. I could dry the strings of peel, I could make jewelry or braided snacks.
I don’t. I make sauce. The slices go into my biggest pot then sit over a low flame for hours. The apples release their juice and then puff up into mushy versions of themselves before collapsing into a blendable pulp. Northern Spy, Cortland, Macoun, Yellow Delicious — the different combinations create different flavors and levels of sweetness. David and I taste the batches, like tasting wine. “This sauce isn’t quite as complex as the last.” “Yeah, it’s a little more flat.” It’s all delicious.
I wondered, when I came home in mid-September, how I was going to transition back into my own life, my own pace and schedule. Applesauce never crossed my mind as the path that would lead me back, but I should have suspected, given how much of the little free time I had this summer I spent freezing local fruit — strawberries, peaches, blueberries.
As I clamp the peeler-corer-slicer to the counter with its vacuum base, I feel like I’m securing myself, grounded, my feet on my kitchen floor, looking out the windows at the now brown oak leaves that keep falling. There are ten quarts of applesauce in the freezer and always at least a pint in the refrigerator. Tomorrow I’ll probably make more.
Then go away again.