In the Orchard
When we got there, beautifully dressed people of all ages were flowing toward a crest on one hill, evidently on their way to attend a wedding to be held in the middle of the orchard. The main house was crowded with tables, dressed in white, set for the feast. Several tractors with wagons were giving the guests rides to the wedding site. I thought at the moment that this was how orchards had evolved, a way they have found to survive.
Perhaps this is what was behind Dwight Miller’s father’s long ago decision to turn their dairy farm into an orchard. I know that many orchards in Washington state, one of the main providers of fruit in this country since the beginning of trade, have been knocked down, quite literally by the overwhelming competition from Chile, now the source of the great majority of the fruits we buy in our supermarkets. I’m glad to know that finally the idea of “buying local” had made inroads into this somewhat insane practice of shipping fruit from such a distant place rather than supporting what we are able to grow here. But the verve for local certainly is not strong enough to reverse this global trend.
Many orchardists in Washington state have cut down their fruit trees and burned them, reincarnating the land into vineyards and educating themselves to become vintners. This has apparently been quite successful for some but others have simply sold their land for development, the simple solution for any farmer who needs to find an income.
So perhaps this is the answer here in New England: host weddings under the boughs. I somehow felt sure they brought in more money from that event than they did from the scattering of us who came that day to pick or to buy a bag of apples from the stand. Of course, I have no idea. It is just something I pondered yesterday while lugging my fragrant basket of peaches to the scales and feeling incredibly lucky to be able to harvest something so delectable on such a lovely day as it was, blue skies and warm sunshine. And came home smelling like a peach.
It just seems odd now to think that at that very same time, Dwight Miller’s long and productive life was coming to an end in his orchard, where all his trees were gratefully bearing the fruits of the labors of his lifetime, spent right there in that very place. And two people, up on a rise above where we had parked, were tying the knot in a grove of apple trees, heavy with this year’s harvest. That is the kind of amazing confluence that life sometimes offers, as well as the opportunity for reflection, if we can find the connections.