Stories including Arizona

To Vassar, the Apple of My Eye

I think of my past four years at Vassar like I think of an apple. One of those light green and burnished red ones whose colors mirror the leaves’ transition from summer to fall. A honey crisp, maybe, that tastes sweet, is not too grainy and has a good bite-just the right amount of lingering tartness. Like eating a honey crisp, I have devoured the sweetness and tartness of Vassar over the past four years: pierced the skin of the apple of knowledge, bitten into the smooth flesh that lies beneath and pondered the remaining core and the perfect wholeness of the seeds.

I came to Vassar right before apple season. Arriving from Colorado, I was struck by the fields and fields of apple trees near campus. The abundance of apples that came in the fall was a kind of miracle to me: so many kinds, so many tastes. My classes were equally diverse and delicious, each like a new variety of apple. I studied anthropology, sociology, art history and English. I learned how to think and ask questions about the origins of ideas; their many tastes; how to cut into them, parse and divide them; and how to relate these slices to each other. I discovered the joy of slicing into an apple to savor its sweet, juicy, tart essence in every bite. After a period of tasting-searching for the juiciest bite into the wisdom I sought-I eventually fell in love with culinary anthropology and French. I delighted in thinking about the intersection of culture and food and became addicted to the taste of the word “pomme” (the French word for apple) rolling from my tongue. Professors would pluck apples from the highest branches of trees that I could not yet climb on my own and pass these pieces of wisdom down to me. They pushed me to strive, taste, seek, discover and cultivate my own orchard of apples.

The apples grew. I fertilized them with joyous, sun-dappled afternoons spent listening to my friends play fiddle in the Vassar orchard; cat naps between bouts of intense studying, reading and writing in the chairs of the Vassar library; and classes that left me hungry for more. I watered my trees with occasional tears from the pains of growing and learning and sweat from the heat of getting boxes up and down four flights of stairs on move-in day. I discovered new varieties of apples during my junior year abroad in Paris, France, where I fell in love for the first time, strove to make a perfect tarte aux pommes and learned about living in another culture. When the lower branches of my trees leafed out and started to bear fruit, I shared what I had learned with other students who were hungry to discuss knowledge: how to write a better paper in the Vassar College Writing Center or another way to get at the core of culture as an Anthropology Department academic intern. The spring days were long, lingering and sweet, and my trees blossomed.

And, now, too soon, I have come to my last season at Vassar. I will not be here in the fall when the apple trees again bear heavy, ripe fruit. I will be in Arizona, where there are fewer apple trees, making pastry at a restaurant in Flagstaff and satiating my taste for life in the Southwest. My little crop of Vassar apple trees goes with me. I have tasted the sweetness of the knowledge of the Vassar community, and I will never stop hungering for the crisp, sweet-tart taste of learning something new.

I think of Vassar and the taste of apples fills my mouth.

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