The Postscript: Perfection is an illusion

Published 9:55 pm Wednesday, September 26, 2018

By Carrie Classon


We don’t have a lot of great fruit trees around here.

My neighbors across the street, Charles and Joanna, have a beautiful peach tree, but they water it when it’s dry, festoon it with Christmas lights when frost threatens, and generally baby that tree so it more or less feels obligated to give them peaches at least every other year. The less pampered trees around here do their own thing—and their own thing is not terrific.

We have an apple tree. It is not a lovely tree. It is squat and located where we park, so apples are always raining down on the car. The apples are small; they ripen late and slowly. Virtually every apple ends up with a bird bite taken out of it.

“Is that apple ripe yet?” (Chomp, chomp, chomp.) “No, not quite.”

Once the apples are as ripe as they are going to get (complete with a bird bite in every one) they are still small and already rubbery. The skin is thick and hard to peel and the core comprises most of the apple. It takes a lot of work to get a small, sweet piece of apple meat from the tiny fruit. Once I cut out the bird bites, there is almost nothing left. This means that, generally, I let the apples get eaten by deer or raked up and I spend the autumn feeling guilty for wasting so much fruit.

This year, I decided I would make at least one pie out of these sorry excuse for apples. I cut apple after apple and slowly filled the waiting pie crust. (I did not use my largest pie pan—I am not a glutton for punishment.)

But as I worked, I was surprised to find my heart warmed by these small, wrinkled apples. I had to admire their imperfection and tenacity. Inside all that rubbery skin, they were tender and sweet and I knew they would make a good pie. They were not in competition with bigger, more robust apples. They were just fine—just as they were.

I was proud I was putting these less-than-perfect little apples to use. I was glad I hadn’t given up on them and left them on the ground to rot. They might take a bit more work, they might not win any prizes. But I was pretty sure, once they were in a pie, they would be as good as any apples on earth.

And I couldn’t help notice how much we had in common, these little apples and I. Every day I sit at my desk knowing there are a lot of folks better suited to doing what I am trying to do, folks who started writing a lot earlier and knew they wanted to write when they were twenty-years-old. But here I sit, writing anyway.

I guess I do it because I know—whether you are a person or an apple—perfection is an illusion, and every apple falls short of an imaginary ideal. I believe it’s a good idea to find a use for whatever you might be good at, what you happen to have on hand, what might otherwise be wasted. Whether it’s a handful of stories or bird-eaten apples, I think it’s worth our time to try to make the world a little sweeter in whatever way we can.

It would be easy to say these little apples are just too much trouble, too old, and too imperfect to bother with. A better thing to do, it seems to me, is to make an apple pie.

Till next time,


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