Nearly every day, I walk through an apple orchard to get some exercise with my dog. It's a wonderfully rejuvenating practice that helps me clear my head of the busyness of teaching music lessons, performing in a band, writing songs, and recording in the studio.
I started doing this in early spring, before the leaves had even begun to sprout on the trees. As the days lengthened, almost imperceptibly, tiny green buds began to form. The trees seemed to stay in that state of near-green for so many days, I thought I'd entered a time warp. Then we got a few good days of rain, and suddenly the entire field was awash in leaves.
Shortly after this time, I started to notice the tiny white buds of a familiar flower, start to appear. They crept in one night, and started roosting on a couple of branches, and then a couple more, and a few more, until the entire field had white buds among the green. But still no full flowers.
It stayed like this for some time, and I couldn't quiet my anticipation. The smell of apple blossoms in the spring is like no other, and it always takes me back to a simpler time on my grandparents' property, speculating on what would be the quality of our surely wormy fall bounty. I told everyone who would listen (usually just my dog), that I couldn't wait for this year's bloom.
It started as a slow trickle, running downhill, and picking up speed faster and faster, until the entire hillside was flooded with pink and white flowers and the most intoxicating fragrance. I took many walks during this time, which only lasted about 4 or 5 days, just to stop and enjoy the view, the scent, and the company of some bumblebees.
More quickly than they appeared, these petals - these harbingers of warm weather - fluttered to the ground like large, heavy snowflakes on a still afternoon. I took extra long walks at this time, savoring those trees who held on the longest to these fair weather friends.
Then for a while, it seemed like nothing was happening. The petals had all turned brown and washed away into the soil. The days got warmer and my walks continued, but I looked more to the horizon than to the apple trees, because so much was changing off in the distance as the forests on opposing mountain tops were finally catching up with lower lying areas, and filling in with many shades of green.
Taking a walk at dusk on a familiar path, I noticed honeysuckle next to the road and paused to sip its sweet nectar. Out of the corner of my eye, a small round apple, no bigger around than a nickel, caught my attention. Over the coming days, many more of these tiny, sour fruits began to populate the field.
And then... nothing. These apples would not get bigger. They stayed the same for weeks, it seemed! But, Mother Nature added some sort of leavening agent to the batter of these small green loaves, and almost overnight they were double, triple their size! On some ridges, they already looked big enough to pick!
On particularly sunny days now, I notice that some of the apples are getting a tan, turning a deep red color on the side most facing the sun. I notice an outdoor toilet has been placed in the middle of the field, as preparations are being made to harvest the biggest and most ripe apples a little earlier than the others, which will be ready in a month or more.
If my memory of last fall serves me correctly, these apples will be stolen away in the night. One day, there will be apples. The next day, just leaves and trees - so fast it was like they were never there.
Sometimes when we embark on something new, the gains we make in the beginning seem so small that it looks like nothing is happening. But if we take the time each day to quietly observe and to be present in the growth, we can savor the deliciousness of the process.
There will be moments along the way where action seems to stall. There will be days where sudden developments happen and we taste the nectar of our breakthroughs. There will be harvest, and there will be rest. We must remember to trust in this process, because each step is crucial to the next, and without periods of dormancy, growth is not possible.