Monday, September 6, 2010

WA Harvest 1 - Wenatchee Valley Dreams

There has always been this blurred memory qrunning through my mind that somehow fits now. When I was in high school, there was a deep sense within to roam. Setting out with tires along the highway, the groves in the pavement setting a beat pulling one forward. It was with those trips that I remember one of the first memories of the Wenatchee Valley. It was evening, and I was weaving myself down out of Blewett Pass. As I passed Ingalls Creek, I began to pass orchard after orchard. Trees extending up the hillside carpeting the valley in atheir foliage everending. As the sunset was setting the hillside aglow, I watched as silent figures walked with bag and ladder in hand, moving along the road back to home. Pilling into cars and following us on our journey east. Somehow, I always thought to myself what it must be to work among these trees all day, enclosed by their boughs and harvesting the fruits of a summers labor. It was my young romantic dream to travel and learn more of these people.

A French Canadian woman gave me the first taste of this life a few years ago. Myself, I remember that first orchard with love. Somehow my dreams and description of the pickets life always flow back to those days. An old Hungarian, riding his tractor from picker to picker. Talking politics, economics, and most important food. Wine seemed always to be on hand. And at the end of the day, we all came together and talked of our travels and where our next great leap would be. After this lt week, I have come to find this was indeed a special place and time. Yet the act of picking is indeed the same, with much of the same pleasures.

To reach up into the tree and a take hold of a pear is to make a connection with production and source. I feel part of the flow of food rather then just a rote consumer. To know where your food comes from, and to give it the care needed, is a special act of meditation. While picking all day the trees and rows blur. Bins fall unto bins, and soon, you just become one with the act. Like those silent wary figures that I seen years before, each evening comes with a sort of worn feel, yet it is different then those given from city work. To feel a sense of physical connection to what gives you your livelihood, there is a gratification in the fatigue of the arms and back. For these hands grasped... For these arm reached... For these legs supported... And these eyes did gaze over countless rows. It is enough to gain just a slice of the larger picture with each day... This is part of why I love picking fruit.

This year I have taken on another into the fields. Teaching her how to pick, carry her bag, set her ladder and work around the tree. She seems to have taken to it like I did my first time. At the end of the day craving once more to pick the fruit and be among the trees leafy arms. I believe that once a person gains knowledge, they must begin to give it away. Knowledge is someone not to be kept close and secret, but like good experiences shared with one another. Here was my opportunity to give back the gift that Line had given me two years ago. One of the secret joys of a Vagabond. To take the work and to become part of it, in that moment...

At the end of the day, the Bartlett Pears completed, we drive the long lines of orchards. looking at the pears and apples as the run by, calling them out and noting their ripeness, d'Anjous, Galas, Golden Delicious, Pink Ladys.... bins lining the rows, and finding the orchard owners. at each stop, we ask about his crop and when he thinks the next harvest will come. Each is like a proud father, nurturing their harvest, and speaking with pride of the size and color of his crop. In the end we wait, till later in the week when the rains and the sun will play their magic and bring the sugars to full richness in each pome... Then we will pick again... But for now, to enjoy a river afternoon of Wenatchee Valley Fall...

-- Ridgewalker

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