This afternoon we went apple picking across the river with a big group from church. When we arrived we were informed that the severe frost that devastated the state’s grape and peach crops had done a number on the apples as well. We boarded a hay wagon and headed into the orchard past rows of drooping, barren trees. The few apples that we did see were rotting in small piles at the base of the trunks. It was a pretty forlorn sight. A neighboring orchard owned by the same family had fared somewhat better, and they shipped apples in crates to this site, so we picked and we picked – not from the heavy laden branches of autumn’s past, but from large crates hauled in for this purpose. The apples were chilled from a refrigerator somewhere, and they lacked the romance that gently twisting the stem loose from the branch had always offered them in the past. But E immediately launched into them, and when you moved away from the crates, and stood at the edge of the orchard rows, you could almost imagine that you had picked them there. It was a minor inconvenience for us, a momentary disappointment that our fall ritual had failed to live up to its own standard. But as we drove back out of the orchard, past the empty, drooping trees, you knew the sadness of the loss was much greater to those much closer to it. We still have enough for an apple pie or two…I think we’ll get on that this evening…and hope for a warmer spring next year.