Hand in hand we walk up the main avenue of the orchard. This corridor divides pears from apples, and we sample the sugary crispness of both. My daughter cradles her newborn son in a sling across her heart. Though fresh from birthing, she strides confidently through the familiar fruitwoods that surround the small cottage where she lives.
Laid out in neat lines, this fruit-growing forest rolls up and down the gentle hillsides. Tall grasses lie drying like hay after the field workers have ridden their mowers up the avenues and around the sturdy trunks that budded into fruit bearing limbs.
It’s harvest time in Hood River County.
Fertile orchards that fan up from the mighty Columbia buzz with the voices of Mexican men and women who make their living en las huertas. Today their Spanish chatter creates a pleasing sound track for our walk through the trees. Throughout the year these workers pick and prune and mow and water for the region’s fruit farms, and I am grateful that these cycles of harvesting survive around us.
I’d seen these farm laborers in the Laundromat the week before. Together we were doing a different kind of work. I folded my three-week- old grandson’s warm blankets and sleeping gowns next to Margarita from Michoacán and Marisol and Isidro from Guanajuato. Sus hijos played contentedly under the wide table where we folded. Clean t-shirt, jeans, sheets, and towels stacked high alongside my grandson’s infant wear forming colorful towers of clean laundry. I marveled at the precision of their folding for each crease got hospital corners care. I listened to their Spanish and wondered how they kept themselves so immaculate in the rough little workers’ quarters that circle the apple and pear fields they tend with the same respectful attention.
On our walk my daughter and I range into the Douglas fir forest that borders the orchard. The clear alleys between rows of fruit trees shift into a mossy rainforest. Families of deer hide in the shadows, poised, I’m told, to leap the electric fence when night falls. The call of ripened fruit dulls their shyness and caution.
When my daughter and her little brother were children, on early fall days like this we too walked hand in hand up a graveled road to our two-room cottage on a hillside, though that hillside overlooked the Pacific Ocean. Like today we snacked on the sweet fruits that surrounded us, our fingertips and tongues stained by blackberries. I recognize that a pattern has been set and that my sweet daughter will share such times with her children as they grow, and if I’m lucky, I’ll be invited along.