In the 1400s the term windfall referred to fruit the wind had blown from trees. Nowadays windfall means unexpected good fortune, like getting a parking space right in front of the restaurant on a rainy evening. Can these two meanings of the word windfall be reconciled? It seems impossible, but I’ll try.
One autumn years ago I helped harvest apples at a friend’s orchard. We did it by hand, climbing ladders, balancing baskets on top rungs, standing on tiptoes and stretching arms between branches to pick those almost out of reach.
Soft sunlight filtered through the trees and flickered on leaves twisting in the brisk wind. The piquant smell of fresh apples filled the air and interlaced my hair. I was young and in love and caught occasional glimpses of the man of my dreams working in the next row. He threw me an apple. I caught it and laughed. Apples and laughter and young love: a heady concoction.
We were told to leave the apples that had fallen to the ground. They’re probably bruised, the owner said, or pecked by birds. They’re imperfect. The shops won’t want them.
So they lay where they fell, half hidden by lank weeds. Windfall. Life’s rejects.
Some days I feel like windfall. I’m not a young girl up a ladder now. I’m not shiny and new, dangling between branches, ripe for the picking. My cheeks don’t glow with a pale pink blush. The winds of life have dried me. My skin is scratched, my flesh bruised. I lie half hidden in the lank grass of everyday life.
We don’t seek to age. It happens. The years go by but faintly noticed, as soft and silent as down blown from a thistle.
And, lo! A day comes when we’re not perfect, preened and plush. We’re wrinkled, tough to touch. We’re windfall. Not worth picking up. Not worth bidding for.
We’ve been high in the tree with a view to the horizon and now we’re low, smelling earth and roots and creatures of the night.
But, ah! The things we’ve felt and seen and done and thought. The words we’ve said. The brows we’ve cooled. The tears we’ve caught. The secrets heard. The hopes we’ve stirred.
And let’s not forget the unexpected good fortune woven through our lives, as subtle as the piquant smell of new autumn apples, if we take the time to recall.
Sunrises. Opportunities. A baby's breath. Friends. Surprises. Gifts. Sunsets.
I am windfall. I’ve been blown by strong winds.
I’ve also had my share of windfalls and been unexpectedly blessed by them.
I’m a windfall of windfalls.
With love, Marlane
First published on ILLUMINATION, Medium.com