May 15, 2017

By Arthur Henry Gunther III

In the Rockland County, N.Y. of my late 1940s into 1950s youth, taking the same, long bicycle ride twice but a month apart often meant witnessing a disappearing landscape. This was post-World War II suburbia, and rural land so close to New York City was honey to speculators and builders.
Hurly-burly construction in a vacuum of sound planning brought too much growth too quickly, eventually nailing the boards on true downtown village shops in favor of endless highway strips, but that’s not the point of this essay. Rather, it’s all about apples. Peaches too. A few pears. Orchards lost to Huggy Bear Estates and similar housing development.
Those old bike trips, and many walks, too, would take me past the generations-old orchards of the Concklin, Davies, Brown and so many other families. No spring was without early fruit tree buds, virginal white, pink, too. It was a sight to behold but music, too, as the birds returned. Their notes were so hopeful as the whistling winds of winter morphed into the stillness of anticipation toward eventual harvest.
When the bees came to pollinate, nature and its cycles were really ready to perform.
In my prejudiced opinion, Rockland apples were the best tasting, and the varieties still grown by the two or so farms left make your mouth water long before you chomp on them.
As with many moments, a very simple experience like passing a blossoming fruit orchard can reset tempo, restore balance. I have walked in the canopy of nature in the confusion of the early teen years. When love was lost. When I had career concerns, family worries. Each time, the renewal that is the rebirth of an orchard served as a free counseling session, within, yes, alone, yes, but nevertheless introspective and with questions answered.
Nice place to grow up — where an orchard blooms.

The writer is a retired newspaperman.