Saturday, June 14, 2008

Sunday Scribbling: Guide

"My children, listen to me. Listen to your father's instruction. Pay attention and grow wise, for I am giving you good guidance. Don't turn away from my teaching." (Proverbs 4:1-2)
This week's Sunday Scribbling theme is "guide." My father came instantly to mind. My father has guided me and my four older brothers—and now his 9 grandchildren and 2 great-grandchildren—throughout our whole lives. He is a gentle, soft-spoken presence: funny and brilliant, encouraging and forgiving. His life has been a constant pursuit of knowledge, and in the course of seeking knowledge, he has acquired tremendous wisdom. He continuously strives to walk in the paths of righteousness, without ever being self-righteous. He is a brilliant scientist and historian who has a heart for Christ.
"My child, listen to me and do as I say, and you will have a long, good life. I will teach you wisdom's ways and lead you in straight paths. If you live a life guided by wisdom, you wn't limp or stumble as you run. Carry out my instructions; don't forsake them. Guard them, for they will lead you to a fulfilled life." (Proverbs 4:10-13)
On Monday my parents, who are in their 80s, are flying to Scotland and Ireland for a 10-day tour. My parents have traveled extensively throughout the second half of their lives; astonishingly, they've never been to Ireland, although my father's grandfather came from there as a boy.

My father has spent his life either growing fruit or doing groundbreaking research in fruit breeding and nursery production. Before him rest five generations of Cummins apple growers. My brothers are the seventh generation, and two have orchards: Stephen has Indian Creek and James has Bittersweet, both in or near Ithaca, NY. Stephen and my Dad also run Cummins Nursery.

I wrote this poem about my father many years ago, and I still love it. This is my most vivid memory of my father: peeling apples.

Dad, Peeling Apples

The color of wheat
bread speckled
like the skin of a Golden Delicious,
freckles on top of freckles
and tiny nicks
from his knife, dots of blood
turned to brown scabs.
My father’s hands

have never changed. Every night
a different apple
skinned naked,
split and seeded without him
ever looking down, loving the fit
of apple
in the left hand, brown-handled
knife in the right.
He licks the tip of his finger
where the juice runs clear
and skewers a slice

for me, which I take
of whether I want
an apple or whether
the flesh has begun to brown
around the edges. When he is done,
knife set down and fingers wiped
clean against the legs
of his beige corduroys, I will take
the leathered back
of his hand to my cheek
and hold it there, begging
his weathered roots to spread
their soil-caked fingers
long and strong
as deep as the generations will go.

(By Sarah Cummins Small. Copyright 2000. First published in The Yalobusha Review.)


anno said...

What a gorgeous portrait -- I just love this!

A few months ago, while working with a group of middle school writers, we tried an exercise where we wrote a poem about hands. I wish I'd known this poem then.

danni said...

you are so blessed to have your father - what a wonderful and loving description of a mentor and a sage --- sounds like he lives the book of proverbs well - a beautiful father's day gift for him - i hope you print it and give it to him!!!

LA Nickers said...

Great tribute and memory.

How blessed you are that your parents are still so vital and active.

What a legacy.


IN MY FATHER’S FIELD, at Nickers and Ink

Traveler said...

what a beautiful tribute to your father... perfectly timed as well!

gautami tripathy said...

A beautiful tribute for you father. Thanks for posting this for us to read.

guiding lights?

Steve said...

This post was choice!

Gemma Wiseman said...

I adore the personal detail of this journey with your father. Very touching!

Stacy said...

A lovely tribute to your dad.

GreenishLady said...

Oh, that poem is so moving! It creates such a portrait of the man... Wow! Glad to know your Dad will finally get to visit Ireland. I'm hoping he finds what he wants here. - And that the weather stays fine!

Foxfire said...

I really like the imagery the poem brings up. It's very strong, I can almost taste and smell the apples, even. It's so wonderful.

Tammie Lee said...

Your poem is tender, sweet, full of memory, I deeply enjoyed it. So lovely that you feel as you do about your father.

Granny Smith said...

This is a lovely post for both "guide" and Fathers' Day. One of my early memories is of my grandmother holding me in her lap while she peeled an apple for us to share.