After Apple Picking
My long two-pointed ladder’s sticking through a tree
Toward heaven still,
And there’s a barrel that I didn’t fill
Beside it, and there may be two or three
Apples I didn’t pick upon some bough.
But I am done with apple-picking now.
Essence of winter sleep is on the night,
The scent of apples: I am drowsing off.
I cannot rub the strangeness from my sight
I got from looking through a pane of glass
I skimmed this morning from the drinking trough
And held against the world of hoary grass.
It melted, and I let it fall and break.
But I was well
Upon my way to sleep before it fell,
And I could tell
What form my dreaming was about to take.
Magnified apples appear and disappear,
Stem end and blossom end,
And every fleck of russet showing clear.
My instep arch not only keeps the ache,
It keeps the pressure of a ladder-round.
I feel the ladder sway as the boughs bend.
And I keep hearing from the cellar bin
The rumbling sound
Of load on load of apples coming in.
For I have had too much
Of apple-picking: I am overtired
Of the great harvest I myself desired.
There were ten thousand thousand fruit to touch,
Cherish in hand, lift down, and not let fall.
That struck the earth,
No matter if not bruised or spiked with stubble,
Went surely to the cider-apple heap
As of no worth.
One can see what will trouble
This sleep of mine, whatever sleep it is.
Were he not gone,
The woodchuck could say whether it’s like his
Long sleep, as I describe its coming on,
Or just some human sleep.
I have mentioned this before, but since I was called to be a R.S. president I write down the names of the sisters I visit or interact with each day on my calendar. It is my reminder that the work is about individuals, not activities, lessons, and cookbooks. It reminds me that I didn’t fail *these* sisters today, even if I am concerned about so many. Most of the time, it is incredibly helpful to me to keep this record.
In December, I gave up writing down the names. I was looking at life through a distorted lens, as through ice over water. Despite my efforts, the problems multiplied in my mind. There are a lot of reasons for my discouragement, some obvious, some subtle, some avoidable, and others unavoidable. I am not beating myself up about this. It is OK to be tired sometimes, and I don’t resent or regret anything I did for others.
I played a musical number with Daniel on Christmas Eve for the ward and hurried away from church because with this last service of giving music, I had given my all. Everything. I was dry. I couldn’t even face compliments. When Richard came home ready to tell me all the positive things people had to say about our music, I simply told him, “I don’t want to talk about it,” and made my way out the door for one last visit to a sister before Christmas.
Instead of coming home after the visit, I drove to the temple and sat in my car in the parking lot for a long time. I remembered the impression from the Spirit that I had during the sacrament a few hours before. It was simply, “I love you. Don’t worry about working on anything else for now,” and I drove home with that thought.
How silently, how silently the wondrous gift is giv’n,
Still God imparts to human hearts the blessings of his heav’n.
-O Little Town of Bethlehem
I have rested, I have rededicated myself to habits that bring me strength, and I am being gentle with myself. I know it IS enough to simply love someone through their problems, for this is the pattern that Heavenly Father showed me on Christmas Eve. I took some needed and worthy time for rest, and this included not keeping a catalog of my efforts. I take comfort that “all things are written by the Father” (3 Nephi 27:26) and no detail of my silent and private service is lost to Him.
On January 2, I started writing down the names again. When I awoke to the news on January 3 that President Monson had passed away, I couldn’t think of a better way to honor President Thomas S. Monson on his last day on earth than to make those visits and keep a record of their precious names, even though I know that angels are doing the same on the other side. This day, writing the names didn’t deplete any energy, it invigorated me.
You are, of course, surrounded by opportunities for service. No doubt at times you recognize so many such opportunities that you may feel somewhat overwhelmed. Where do you begin? How can you do it all? How do you choose, from all the needs you observe, where and how to serve?
Often small acts of service are all that is required to lift and bless another: a question concerning a person’s family, quick words of encouragement, a sincere compliment, a small note of thanks, a brief telephone call.
If we are observant and aware, and if we act on the promptings which come to us, we can accomplish much good.
-President Thomas S. Monson