The Harvest

Yesterday we went apple-picking in the Virginia countryside, bringing home 16 pounds (!) of apples. Looking for recipes…

I’ve been reading Little House in the Big Woods to my daughter, and l love the details of the family’s preparation for the winter: stocking the cellar with home-grown root vegetables; hanging smoked, wild game meat from pegs in the attic; harvesting hay for the horses; and making cheese, bread, and butter from scratch. When my daughter asks if we can do the same – prepare all our food this way – I tell her that it would take us all day through the fall to stock enough food for winter if, like the Ingalls family, we had no stores or other resources to rely upon. So harvesting was serious business; it meant survival through the long, harsh Wisconsin winter.

The harvest is a common theme in poetry. I first think of Anne Sexton’s provocative love poem “Us,” which concludes:

and we rose up like wheat,
acre after acre of gold,
and we harvested,
we harvested.

And I love the first stanza of Seamus Heaney’s “The Harvest Bow,” a reflection on Heaney’s father and the work of his hands:

As you plaited the harvest bow 
You implicated the mellowed silence in you 
In wheat that does not rust 
But brightens as it tightens twist by twist 
Into a knowable corona, 
A throwaway love-knot of straw. 

A true California poet, Robert Hass works harvesting – whether catching a fish, baking a loaf of bread, picking vegetables, or raising children –  into his poetry in subtle ways:

How often we overslept
those grey enormous mornings
in the first year of marriage
and found that rain and wind
had scattered palm nuts,
palm leaves, and sweet rotting crabapples
across our wildered lawn.

By spring your belly was immense
and your coloring a high rosy almond.

-from “Adhesive: For Earlene”

In the summer
peaches the color of sunrise

In the fall
plums the color of dusk

from “The Beginning of September”

This is what I have
to give you, child, stories,
songs, loquat seeds,

curiously shaped; they
are the frailest stay
against our fears…

from “Songs to Survive the Summer”

2 thoughts on “The Harvest

  1. I loved those bits of poetry. My favourite time is the harvest/fall, too – and I love Little House in the Big Woods! Those books still remain my favourites to this day 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s