An Orchard in Spring

The apple orchard on the Appalachian farm where I grew up was my favorite place. In summer I would often scurry to the top of the Yellow Transparent tree to snatch the perfect golden apple from the highest branch. From my leafy fort I could see the rugged blue-gray mountains in the distance and the neighbor’s pasture across the creek, dotted with white-faced cattle and sorrel horses. Then, on a winter evening, the juicy crunch of a russet Winesap, still cold from its storage bin, was food fit for a king. But the orchard was at its best in the pink burst of Spring.

For several weeks, Spring would play a game of hide-and-seek. It would dance in on a whimsical breeze, tease the sugar maples until they fringed the tips of their branches with scarlet blossoms, and persuade the spring peepers to break hibernation and begin their clamorous evening concerts from the stream behind the house. Then mischievous Spring would again retreat into another icy blast of winter. But when the orchard bloomed, it signaled that the game was over and Spring had come to stay.

One bright afternoon in April I went out to experience Spring’s arrival from atop the orchard fence. As I hoisted myself up, I could feel the warmth of the sun radiating from the weathered rails. I sat on the rough, lichen-covered top rail to look and listen.

Delicate pink clouds of blossoms rippled in the breeze. A symphony of bees filled the air with melodic buzzing as they reveled in the abundance of sweet nectar. Birds, intent upon nest-building, flitted in and out among the branches. A saucy Oriole perched for a moment on a nearby branch and serenaded me.

The sweet, spicy aroma of the blossoms floated over me. It was a gentle, soothing fragrance, not presumptuous, but forceful enough to bring to mind the pungent taste of the fruit that would follow.

In the pasture next to the orchard a cow’s soft lowing warned her newborn calf that his wobbly legs were not yet ready for his frisky playfulness. I could hear the jingle of Pete’s harness and Dad’s rhythmic “gee, haw” commands to the horse as together they plowed the field behind the orchard. Although the cloud of blossoms blocked the view, I could picture the activity there. Dad and Pete always cut clean, sharp furrows, circling the hill with small, red-brown ridges. There would be a following of robins in their wake, eagerly snatching up fat earthworms from the freshly turned, musky-smelling earth.

As the sun caressed my face like a reassuring hand, I knew that all was well. After shedding the shackles of winter, the world around me teemed with life, and I could feel that life pulsating through me. Ah, Spring! What a time to be alive!