Friday, September 25, 2009

Rotten Apples

I'm in Boston at the moment, but in my mind I'm thinking about the rotten apples on the steps going down into Burroughs Park in Flint. I've been walking up and down those steps for more than 20 years, and this time of year, an apple tree on the north side of the steps drops its apples and nobody ever does anything about it. So they drop and get in your way when they're still hard, and then they soften and turn brown and send up the most remarkable, tangy scent.

At first it's spicy and the nose dilates like my cat's noses in the morning when they first come up from the basement and sit in the kitchen window sniffing out little birds and squirrel pheromones. Our noses are designed to dredge in information -- is this good to eat? What does this signify? I like how my nose reacts to rotten apples. I don't want to eat them, but it seems to signify rich dynamic nature and the turning of the season.

And my father. I remember my father when I smell rotten apples. In our one acre in McDonaldsville in Jackson Township in Ohio in the early 50s, he planted a miniature orchard of pear trees and a variety of apples -- I noted some of the varieties he loved in my oldy poem "World Travelers." He loved those apple trees. He thought one should not interfere with the apple drops -- he thought that was part of the plan for the other critters -- rabbits and birds, I guess. And he thought rotten apples did as they were meant to, sinking fragrantly back into the soil (humus, he proudly called it, a product of human planning he always believed in and cultivated -- he thought it was his responsibility to add to the humus layer). So those brown rotting apples were part of my father's world view, and also of my childhood, when I'd walk back there and be a little intimidated by their flagrant and fragrant journey back into the earth.

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