I feel fortunate today to share with my readers another guest post by my friend Laura-Marie. Her father died less than two weeks before my father died, so we’ve been supporting each other through dad grief. I really love this beautiful piece of poetic prose, especially the last paragraph. I hope you will like it too.
For the past 20 years or so, my family and I have been going apple tasting at Gopher Glen in See Canyon. This is in California near Avila Beach. (Avila Beach is near San Luis Obispo, and San Luis Obispo is about halfway between San Francisco and Los Angeles.)
See Canyon is gorgeous. It’s filled with orchards on the right and oak trees on the left. Drive the winding road through the canyon. Go for a few miles until you get to the sign that says Gopher Glen. Park under oak trees.
Then enter the building. Right now tons of bright pumpkins are by the door. Long ago, there was no building. There were tables out in the open. Whatever apples were in season were sitting on the tables, and a friendly worker would ask, “Do you like sweet or tart?”
“I want to try all of them,” you might say. The worker would slice a mini slice of each apple for everyone in your party who cared to try, apple by apple.
Nowadays there’s the building, which is good because it means fewer flies and bees. They sell touristy stuff in the shop: cookbooks, tea towels, tubs of caramel. Jars of local jam. An apple peeler for $30.
Before, it was just apples and cider. The cider is so sweet and good, with sediment at the bottom of each jug. Now they have some jugs of cider frozen so it will stay good as you drive home, if your home is far away.
If you come at a good time, there’s not much of a wait. Still, ponder the blackboard that says what varieties are in season and the prices per pound. Just this year Gopher Glen became certified organic, so I think it costs more now.
Ignore the flavored honey sticks and caramels, impulse buys at the register. You’re there for apples.
Feel excited as you see there are several varieties for you today. The worker explains which are best for baking, which are best for eating out of hand. Mom only likes sweet, but you like everything.
It’s fun to try to decide which is best. There’s sweetness, flavor, texture, crispness, hardness…
When my dad died last month, my spouse Ming and I were in town as Mom grieved. Ming and I went to Gopher Glen on Halloween, which was a weekday.
No one else was parked in the lot. It was just us two and the worker, and she wore a crown of white flowers. I wondered if she wore a flower crown every day, or if it was for the holiday. I wanted one too.
The worker kindly assisted us as we sampled all of the apples. Mom had told us she wanted five pounds of the sweetest. Ming and I favored Heaven Scent and Arkansas Black.
When we got back home to Las Vegas days later with our apples, I put one on my Day of the Dead altar as a symbol of the season and as a symbol of all the times we went to Gopher Glen with Mom and Dad. It was our tradition to go on my birthday every year, September 20th. A fall ritual for us.
Nowadays there are picnic tables outside where orchard visitors can picnic or sit chomping on their newly purchased apples.
Apple tasting is like wine tasting but more wholesome. And I think of wine tasting as for rich people. Apple tasting is for just about anyone, young and old, if you can get there.
The workers treat everyone with kindness, as if the workers were apple counselors–they are trying to help you find the apple that’s right for you.
Lug paper bags full of apples to your car. Carry heavy, cold cider jugs. Take an apple out of a bag and rub it on your shirt. Take a bite. There’s nothing better. This is life.
The photo was provided by the author.