It’s apple-picking season again. The leaves are just starting to turn and the sky is so blue it hurts to look at it for too long. We pull our woolen sweaters out of the attic, and they’re infused with the odors of campfire and pine needle and freshly fallen snow, which remind us that the winter is long and we’ll need many jars of Bon Iver’s famous apple butter to smother on thick slabs of country toast for fortification.
On the way to the orchard, we make up a song about apple butter and sing it over and over at the top of our lungs, changing the lyrics slightly each time. We arrive just as we’ve run out of words that rhyme with butter and we tumble out of the pickup and get to work. Three hours in, neither of us can feel our hands anymore and we’ve filled so many barrels we’re not sure they’ll all fit in the bed of the truck. “You’ve earned a break,” Bon Iver says while he spreads the Swiss Army blanket under a tree. He lifts an upside down barrel to reveal a bag of warm cider donuts and a thermos full of an Earl Gray and bourbon concoction that starts to bring the feeling back to my fingers and toes.
His beard is full of cinnamon sugar and his breath smells faintly of bourbon and tea and his hands are cold and rough, the winter wood-chopping callouses just starting to form, and he whispers, “Let me remind you how we stayed warm last winter.” And I let him, even though I never forgot.