Here’s how to bake the best apple pie ever.
1. Go for a drive on the far side of the lake towards Fintry. Be curious. Stop.
First Growth Apple Orchard Gone to Roses and Elders…
and mud. Don’t forget the mud. This is Ewing in early October 2012.
2. Wander around. Taste a few seedling apples growing here and there. Let the rain run down your neck. Find this:
Apples Just Out of Reach
I jumped up and down. I worked my fingers along the branches, and eventually I got a taste. It tasted like … a bottle of apple cider in my hand. You know, the kind of stuff made by people who chisel a hole out of the mountain and keep it there in the dark and check on it once in awhile when the snow blows.
3. Dream. Remember this:
Cider Tree Smelling So Sweet
Darling of the Sun, Taste of the Earth, Beloved of the Sky, Elixir of… well, you get the idea.
4. Go back mid-March to get some grafting wood. Find this:
Black bears like apple cider, too. Good to know! Our brothers and sisters have taste and class, because this one left the other trees alone. So did I. Bah. But I think the bear who did this might do well to learn to climb a ladder.
5. Dream some more.
6. Graft it at home.
Spring, 2013. The Fintry Apple Grafted onto a Transparent.
Note: the transparents from those blossoms were great.
7. Grow a tree. Tend it carefully. Bend the branches down and tip the ends to encourage early fruiting. Dream.
8. It grows, winter comes, you wait. You dream of apple cider.
9. Spring comes, with blossoms. You get a couple dozen apples. Amazing! Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait.
10. Finally, it’s late September, 2014, you pick an apple, and … it tastes exquisite, but it’s way too soft for cider. It’s an old, soft variety, not a juice-laden marvel.
11. Make apple sauce. Aha! It’s just as good as Transparent apple sauce, which is high praise indeed.
12. Make an apple pie for friends. (Shortening, flour, salt, water, apples, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, flour, you know the drill. Easy does it.) It’s tart, it’s rich, it’s sweet, it’s really grand. Everyone is pleased. If we want a processing industry, and the best apple pie in the world, this is our baby.
These darlings are about 2 inches in diameter, and oh-so-fine.
So far, four people and one bear have enjoyed the Fintry apple. Oh my, that just won’t do.
This is not nature.
It is a shrub. This is not nature.
It’s choke cherries at the end of the season. Yeah. Another shrub. This is not nature.It’s wire weed, reclaiming a road shoulder, with a beautiful disrespect for gravity. What then is nature? It’s a human concept. These things aren’t. But, you see, there’s a trick here. Look again. This is human.
Yes, you. And even this.
By nature, a specific kind of human attention must be meant. Otherwise the term is just no use at all. Unless, of course, you believe that you are not of this planet. If that’s the case, then you can use it. If you do, however, this is not human…
… but this is, perhaps…
This grass was humanly sown to stabilize a slope after road construction. It has replaced a rich, living landscape with a single species.
This is how profit is drawn from the earth and turned into human economies. The life of a thousand species is concentrated down to one (humans). How could it be otherwise. It’s the mirror of human economic organization under the current world economic model. All discussions of the earth are ethical discussions.
It’s like Proust and his madelaines, it is. Now, here’s a cool effect: a tiny drop hits a rock and expands. I mean, really expands! Oh, a bigger view (yes, I’m getting wet and hiding my camera under my shirt in between snaps)… Neat, huh. Pshaw, that’s nothing. Look closely:Look how the earth just embraces that water, eh! That’s the way things are done on this planet. And from the other direction, so see how the light handles it:It handles it well! And pulling back again (because we can)… Ah, we could delight in this moment all day, but it’s just that, you know, a moment. It passes. You have to enjoy it when it comes. What a party it is!
Whoo-hooo! That moment billions of years ago when the comets first struck the hot earth, well, it lives on! How cool is that!
I promised I would show you some images of a tension I’ve noticed in Western culture. It’s a living tension, that comes in variable forms. First…
Shadows of Grass on Stone
… and second …
Lit Grass Within Shadow
… and a third variation of the same effect …
… and a fourth …
Leaf Shading a Leaf
We could go on all day playing with such interwoven images of light and dark. That they are easily viewed as light and shadow is cultural, however. They could as easily be named as two separate forms of light, the light, for example, on the brighter cottonwood leaves below, and the dark on the others …
… but, really, they are all lit. There is a kind of light cast by the mind (call it naming, if you like), which consolidates understandings of energy by mapping out their recurrence. You can use it, for example, to map the same patterns as seen above in the image below…
Light and Shade in a Chinese Elm
You could go on to map the variations in this pattern in many different plants, and then make classifications of the effect. If you follow this path long enough, you can see the same pattern, extended across a season, and even across maps of evolutionary time, here…
That is largely the science of nomenclature, but it’s also the basic way in which culture operates in the West: it consolidates discoveries by mapping out all possible instances of their recurrence in the world. Heck, you can even find it here…
Red Dogwood’s Time Map
But, of course, if we’re going that far, we’re into the territory of naming as a power of extending patterns. That’s a second kind of naming. Here’s a big leap within it from light to hormonal patterns laid down by light.
Chinese Elm Sapling
On the one hand, there is a leap of understanding here, that the chemical map of the plant is the same as its interaction with light. On the other hand, the intellectual tools for mapping that effect were laid down long ago in different contexts. To view it here is to classify their existence in a new instance. There is no gap between these two forms of naming. They lie on a continuum. A further extension of the energy of naming as extension …
… is found in the grasses that evolved to harvest this energy of extension. Each blade is a shadow of carbon in the light, and yet each blade dying in the fall holds a little more light than strikes it in any moment…
… in a complex pattern determined by the interaction of each blade and stalk with each other one around it, in a pattern continually transformed by the wind. The form of naming I mean here is the one that can see this pattern and add it to the realm of knowledge, so that it can be extended by the other, classifying energy. The two work together, like shade and light. When they don’t work together, effects like the wind-blown patterns of rain-weighted grass below (without the weight of rain, the wind would not have laid it down in its own shape, or at all) are seen as random.
They aren’t. They are a measure of grass health, sun, nutrients, rain and wind. In the grassland, such effects make the difference between productivity and drought. In other words, they make the difference between the continued survival of species in this landscape, including but by no means limited to humans. The tension between these two forms of naming powers Western culture, and it is through it that all who live within that culture view the physical world. In fact, this tension is the physical world, for people in this particular culture. This, for example, is an image of the tension between these two forces.
That these are late-season wild cherries is a part of the classification energy. That the fruits are laid down as concentrations of darkness is a part of the power of extension. Anyone who might suggest that these two energies are separate is likely to think that the world they see is not an image of their culture. It is dangerous to think like that too often.
Ah, the noble stag, majestically ruling its wild kingdom in parallel to the worlds of men. Here you can see a young mule deer buck framed against a hillside sculpted by humans into muck. If you are a human and not a Google Bot looking at this, do notice the exquisite metal sky put up to keep the stags from floating up off the earth into the pinot gris. Majestic! Romantic, too. Here’s a stag posing nobly beside a waterline that delivers water across the weed belt (Except for a couple sages, there are no native plants in this image.) into the gewürztraminir and pinot noir plots.
Again, if you’re a bot, this is probably lost on you, but if you’re a human the scene will likely give you a sense of complete satisfaction. After all, that bottle of plonk you had with dinner last night was romantically created out of just this romance. Here’s the big picture: two stags wandering through the wasteland. Nothing to eat for miles, except some bushes down in a ravine and, um, well, the predators hang out there, too, so you’d have to be a porcupine to feed on anything down there.
Locally, these are called problem deer. Here’s one of them 2 evenings ago, as the sun was going down, pulling the purple, red and orange colours out of the sage. As for the sage, yes, it’s native, but that amount of sage is a result of over-grazing and under-burning. Yup, you got it right: weeds, again. This is on the edge of that ravine no self-respecting deer would enter (you have to cross the freaking coyote trail just to get down into the deeps). You got it. Nothing to eat for miles.
The kings of the wild are living in a new wilderness: Weed Planet! That’s what we have made. It is an image of ourselves and an image of the poverty of our social and scientific understandings. One might think human kind has completely lost its mind. No. Look. I found it. Yesterday!
Grasses are the children of a warming earth, and this is their season. I’ve been talking of science lately, but a science based in poetry and in ancient earth knowledge, so I thought today, walking out in the grass, hey, why not show you the magic of the grass? Have a look!
What a beautiful one! It’s fair to say that what I, a human, observe as beauty is not necessarily aesthetic, yet is attractive, in the sense that it completes patterns and completes me as an observer. The ways in which it does so, through colour, shape, form or just presence, are gifted by Western culture to art. Don’t be fooled by that. Art and science are not distinct pursuits.
The human body is a measuring device. What does it measure? Why, that other thing that has been excluded from science: spirit. There is no way to define spirit. That’s kind of the point. Nonetheless, it can be measured, through artfulness and the aesthetic sense of humans, birds, insects, fish and much more.