A cold snow is flurrying down this morning and it seems like a dream that I rode yesterday for over two hours, up the long trail of Mount Falcon, in the sun, along mostly dry trails, occasionally over long stretches of crunchy dry snow.
It seems almost surreal to have done that in January, as if I were in a waking dream, running against the laws of nature. And when I dreamed last night, I was biking, and then I made my way home on the bike to encounter my family playing a game in the living room, and my grandmother (gone three years now) folding laundry–brilliant white towels–in the garage, of all places. And when a tornado siren went off and the clouds began to swirl–still the sun burned brightly along the horizon, like it did yesterday as I rode–we collected in the basement. The game (I think it was checkers, but the image is unclear) kept on. My eldest daughter and I hunkered down by the basement stairs and listened for signs of our neighborhood’s dismantlement. But the giant gray-black tails curled high in the air, and kept on their way to the east, sparing us.
Somehow this dream recalled for me Robert Frost’s poem, “After Apple Picking.” The languid, almost sleepy tone and soft rhymes are very much like the ease I felt in the dream, and the ease I felt while riding yesterday. I was fully in the moment, a little weary and sentimental, in love with the slow repetitive action and the gentle feeling that such a task (riding, apple picking) will soon be going into hibernation, which is a very long sleep indeed.
At any rate, here is the poem.
AFTER APPLE PICKING
My long two-pointed ladder’s sticking through a tree
Toward heaven still,
And there’s a barrel that I didn’t fill
Beside it, and there may be two or three
Apples I didn’t pick upon some bough.
But I am done with apple-picking now.
Essence of winter sleep is on the night,
The scent of apples: I am drowsing off.
I cannot rub the strangeness from my sight
I got from looking through a pane of glass
I skimmed this morning from the drinking trough
And held against the world of hoary grass.
It melted, and I let it fall and break.
But I was well
Upon my way to sleep before it fell,
And I could tell
What form my dreaming was about to take.
Magnified apples appear and disappear,
Stem end and blossom end,
And every fleck of russet showing clear.
My instep arch not only keeps the ache,
It keeps the pressure of a ladder-round.
I feel the ladder sway as the boughs bend.
And I keep hearing from the cellar bin
The rumbling sound
Of load on load of apples coming in.
For I have had too much
Of apple-picking: I am overtired
Of the great harvest I myself desired.
There were ten thousand fruit to touch,
Cherish in hand, lift down, and not let fall.
That struck the earth,
No matter if not bruised or spiked with stubble,
Went surely to the cider-apple heap
As of no worth.
One can see what will trouble
This sleep of mine, whatever sleep it is.
Were he not gone,
The woodchuck could say whether it’s like his
Long sleep, as I describe its coming on,
Or just some human sleep.
And here are a few images from yesterday.
A shaded section of the trail, about two-thirds of the way up. Gentle, smooth pedaling was all that was needed to keep cranking on the snow.
High up at the peak of the trail, on a rocky ridge, John Brisben Walker–who once owned the entire area–had wanted to build a summer home for the U.S. Presidents, but never got any further than laying the foundation and cornerstone, which you can see in the above pic. (Behind the cornerstone is a very steep drop, and in the distance you can see the snowy summit of Mount Evans.)
Here’s what the summer home was supposed to look like: