Crab Apples in the Snow
Henry David Thoreau said wild apples are “fairy food, too beautiful to eat.” He was talking actually about crab apples, and most of the text of his essay Wild Apples was actually a not too thinly disguised commentary on America at the height of the Civil War, but his writing brilliantly encapsulates a message for our times as well.
Apples were introduced to North America by colonists in the 17th century, and the first apple orchard on the North American continent was planted in Boston by Reverend William Blaxton in 1625. However, wild apples were present when the first Europeans arrived – they were crabapples.
On our property, we have a few apple trees, remnants of days gone by when our property was a farm. They struggle, as seaside Nova Scotia is not the best habitat, they do much better just a bit inland from us. There is a beautiful wild crab apple, though, which is the lesson.
Lilit Markosian stated Thoreua’s thinking perfectly when she wrote – to Thoreau, wild apples transcend the human realm. “A wild apple cannot even be bought and sold” because its “evanescent and celestial qualities” will stream to heaven, while “the pulp and skin and core” go to market. Thoreau was telling us that humans cannot reach the divine arena of nature and actively move away from it as we engage in civic affairs, such as economy and war. “No mortal,” wrote Thoreau, “ has ever enjoyed the perfect flavor of any fruit.”
Thoreau’s lesson was that civilizations need to be based on mutual care for each other. That we need to look after all members of society, not just the showy market apples, even the small wild apples. It’s a great holiday time message to think about.