The Apple Moment

Who knows how many lifetimes ago the Appalachian mountains laid this little stream down between these two ridges.

This afternoon in bright spring sunshine, flowing waters roll softly over mica-laden silt. Here and there the ripples leap over smooth stones, gushing as they go.

It’s just a small stream here, but clear, cold water has trickled along this valley’s lowest path for centuries.

The creek is not a wild one now; it’s been domesticated. Lawn grass, now vibrant with spring greening, extends through the surrounding slopes down to the water’s edge. But the peaceful waters still render it, for visitors and passersby, a welcome respite from nearby human habitations. Overhead, the maples, locust trees and shrubs are sprouting leaves. Spring is here at last.

A cluster of two-story apartment buildings adjoin the stream. A street winds pragmatically through the well-planned site. Beside the shady street, which is reasonably quiet most of the time, a wooden landscaped ledge displays low juniper foliage.

I am walking through dappled sunshine below the ledge, which is about four feet high. There between two junipers next to the timbered ledge I see an apple on the ground. It’s very red atop the brown bark mulch. Somebody has dropped this apple.

So I pick it up. I am the maintenance man here. Whose is it? Its a store-bought apple. Maybe I’ll return it to its owner, or maybe I’ll just take a bite of it. But no! There’s a big rotten spot on it.

On second thought, because the bad spot occupies about half the apple, I will not eat it, I’m not hungry in mid-afternoon, and surely nobody else wants this apple either. That’s probably why its here on the ground by the road.

What shall I do with it?

I will throw this apple. What the heck. This is the first real spring day here in the Blue Ridge. I’ll just go crazy like a March hare and throw it and let it smash. Spring practice.

Where shall I throw it?

There’s the stream over there, gurgling through the shade and the spotty sunshine about thirty yards away. Maybe some baby trouts would enjoy this apple if it smashes in their watery domain.

I look at the stream. In an instant, my eyes settle on a specific spot in the stream, where water is gurgling over rounded stones. I raise my arm and cock it back like the center-fielder that I was many and many year ago in little league back in the day, and I hurl the apple over at the stream.

It strikes the water with a splash, exactly where I was looking on the water’s surface. How did I do that?

I haven’t thrown anything in a coon’s age. I have not been practicing this. I’m 62. I wasn’t even aiming. I was just. . . throwing an unplanned apple on a day in May.

Doesn’t everybody throw an apple, or something, in the spring time just to, just for the sake of . . .

It wasn’t my mind that did this. It was a sudden, impetuous act, with no purpose. I didn’t even think about it. My arm and my brain managed, intuitively, to retrieve some ancient muscular memory from baseball or from skipping stones or . . . it landed exactly where my eyes were focused.

To what do I attribute such intuitive finesse?  Is it evolution that preserved within me this unprecedented, unplanned mastery? Hurling a found object across a trajectory in such an arc of indeterminate accuracy that it splashed exactly where my eyes had imagined it would?

Am a genius? Maybe an idiot savant?

Well, no. And I don’t think such a wondrous accomplishment as this is attributable to mere evolution.

My belief is: I know there is a God; God did it. Surely I myself could not have pulled off such a thing. God conceived and formed my DNA and my bones and my muscles that cling to those bones, and my neurons that connect up to my brain that commands my arm and coordinates its movements with my eyes, and my depth perception and a hastily-improvised assessment of the appropriate arc of the purposeless apple projectile and the weight of the apple with air resistance and sunshine and springtime and suddenly for no reason whatsoever there it is splashing in the millennial stream.

Surely God hath done this thing with the apple!

But why did I do such a crazy deed as hurling an apple at a creek when I was supposed to be doing my maintenance man job?

A few hours later, I’m thinking maybe my exuberant toss happened because I was jubilant, having just heard Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue on the radio,  or having just realized that it was was a springtime day such as this 350 years ago when Isaac Newton noticed that an apple dropped from a tree and the rest is history and history is being made as we speak.

 Glass Chimera

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