One of my favorite family traditions is our post-dinner walk. We leave the house, point ourselves west, and walk up Sam Hill Road towards the cemetery and the crabapple tree. That mile has always been one of my favorite places on Earth.
We pass the tiny bridge that spans Watts Brook. We always stop to admire the spider webs that enterprising Charlottes build. There are beaver dams in the distance and sometimes we actually see the beavers swimming through the water.
In the summer, fingerling rainbow trout dart back and forth. We drop crabapples on the North side of the bridge and scoot to the South to seem them go bobbing past. I played here as a child, building rock castles, splashing in the shallows. The voices of my friends from those days – all moved away and gone – always echo.
We pass fields that are filled with bluets, and black-eyed susans, wild morning glories, oxeye daisies, vioets, Indian paintbrush, and buttercups. We pick bouquets to take home, wildflowers bunched in Mason jars on the mantle.
If we are lucky, and we pass at the right hour of dusk, we might see turkeys in the field, their strange heads bobbing like dinosaurs as they watch us between strands of clover and timothy.
Sometimes we see deer. Our favorite are the does with their fawns. The mother leaps into the forest and then calls her babies to join her. Too young to know danger, they watch us walking past. Sometimes we see black bears loping before us into the shadows of the pine trees.
We always walk through the old cemetery, admiring the phlox that grows wild. Some of the graves here I helped to dig. People I knew are buried here. There are more stories in the air than even the most prolific of writers could take down.
We pass the crabapple tree which is right near the broken farm gate. Herefords used to graze here, but the field has long since turned to young trees and honeysuckle. Before them, like some sort of crazy old man, the crapapple tree looms. The fields and forest here are all for sale, which breaks my heart, because I know that houses will be put in.
My children have been walking here with me for close to ten years now – their whole lives. My own life is entwined with this walk. The crabapple must have been a seedling when I first began to come up here to mow the cemetery, to lie down in the field and watch the clouds, to track deer through the forest so I could write poems about them.
Right now, the crabapple is in full bloom – white and pink blossoms like crepe paper are spackled over its dark branches, the deep green leaves unfurling in the twilight. Will somebody chop it down? Will this be the last year we collect the apples to make jelly? To roll down the hill as we walk home – crabapple races are the best!
Life changes and goes on. I know that. I know A Course in Miracles teaches me that the world is not real. But I am with Emily Dickinson. This walk, this landscape is in me like a wound and I cannot imagine Heaven separate from it. A Kingdom without crabapples . . . Who would want it? What God would even make it?