“There were ten thousand thousand fruit to touch, / Cherish in hand, lift down, and not let fall.”

Tougas farm, apple season Photo by CR OliverI remember assigning Robert Frost’s “After Apple Picking,” along with “Birches” and “Mending Wall” to my first-ever college class. I was twenty-two, and at least one of the seniors in the class was older than I was. A clerical error had given me a class of thirty instead of twenty, and we were assigned a narrow, windowless room on the second floor of the library. The heaters clanged on in August and the noise of campus construction somehow reverberated in that room.

It was glorious.

I loved being a newly-minted teacher, choosing readings and building a course that I wanted to teach (and take). I loved practicing my students’ names so that they would feel comfortable in class (one Thai last name was a real tongue twister!), and I loved watching their ideas spill onto the chalkboard. There’s no better job than being a tour guide through literature.

I chose to teach Frost because we’re in New England, after all, and he’s THE New England poet, and I encouraged my students to get out of the city and see the beautiful blend of colors in the trees. I’ve gone apple picking each fall with Mr. O since we started dating, and there’s nothing like the blue sky and the fiery trees and the red, red rows of apples.

“After Apple-Picking” is a dreamy meditation on life and death, sleep and wakefulness. Maybe we too will look back on moments both missed and remembered, and think,

“There were ten thousand thousand fruit to touch,
Cherish in hand, lift down, and not let fall.”