My husband and his brothers, descended from Vikings, all of them (or so I believe), frequently collect at our house to drink.
Last fall they brought six bushels of “deer apples”, windfalls, wild apples, bruised or deformed apples. Local people pretend to buy them for feeding deer and livestock but really turn them into applesauce for the freezer. Wild apple trees, mostly runaways from farm orchards, grow throughout the woods and ditches here. Surviving the harsh Ontario winter, they have developed a surprising diversity of flavor.
For my family, applesauce or pies would be a waste of potential. Oh no, God clearly made apples for a higher purpose: the liquid gold of alcohol! The nectar of apple cider! What God has made let no man call evil.
An afternoon of crushing and pressing apples through a homemade contraption (invented by an ingenius farmer out of a washing machine motor) yielded ten gallons of beautiful cloudy, amber-coloured juice. It filled two carboys and was consigned to the basement to wait for spring.
My young children got a good sampling of juice first. “Why does it have to go in the basement?” asked the eldest who has reached the age of reason.
“Because it has to stay cool in order to turn into apple cider,” I replied.
“Because the yeast that makes it into cider likes cool temperatures.” My children know about yeast and its near-magical properties from making bread.
“Did Papa put yeast in the apple juice?” he asked in surprise.
“No. Some is already in the apples and some…just falls in.”
…silently, out of the air, at the bidding of the Heavenly Father as it were, to transform the sweet, simple juice into a more potent juice, to delight our hearts. It’s a wondrous thing. Some things I can’t explain, little darling, but you can watch….
Every few days for the next six months one of my children would go down to the “dungeon” to check on the cider. Sometimes a bubble would rise in the airlock, but otherwise it was a disappointment. No bubbles, no foam, no explosions; just the occasional funky smell.
I remember seeing a video documentary of Mother Teresa where she was filling water bottles from the community’s only tap. It was in such poor condition that only a little trickle came out. She she didn’t complain, make a joke, or curse the water company as you and I would have. She didn’t even stir. She just patiently held each bottle while it filled with agonizing slowness. Drip, drip, trickle, trickle. Her duty. Standing, waiting, filling bottles in an ugly concrete building.
One of the remarkable things about Mother Teresa was her quietness. She worked without saying much, only doing the task in front of her. She was often, we now know, in terrible emotional darkness without a tangible feeling of God’s love or goodness. Whether this was advanced holiness (dark night of the soul) or because she needed medication we may never know. All we can see is the outside: her work and its effects on the forgotten and dying people around her: a bed, a drink of milk, a smile. She rubbed out suffering wherever she saw it.
I think of this often when I’m tempted to hate work, or rather, the tedium of work, the unglamourous cleaning, teaching, repairing, soothing, correcting, building-up, and serving we must do to build a family, also when I’m sick, recovering from a baby, or overwhelmed with chaos.
“God doesn’t call us to be successful, but to be faithful,” as the saying goes. We might not feel it, but being faithful to the duty of the moment is the yeast that changes the world. We can’t always see it happening; it’s not for now. It’s for the future.
This past March, when Will and I took our first deep draft of creamy-smooth, richly-alcoholic apple cider, our eyes popped open in surprise and the rosy glow came to our cheeks. What magic was this?
“It’s like Heaven,” we said. And truly, I believe that Heaven will have some of the characteristics of cider: golden light, effervescence, laughter, joyful conversation, and discovery that the yeast that was invisible to us during our earthly life was actually fermenting the Kingdom of God.
© Soul Gardening Journal. Permission for distribution and personal use granted so long as credit is given and linked, when applicable.