August 3, 2009: Johanna Appleseed

Saturday, a glorious summer day, I was picking up windfall apples in the front yard when a scruffy-looking guy walked by.”You Johnny Appleseed?” he asked. Wise guy responses much appreciated in these parts, I quickly corrected him: “Johanna Appleseed,” I replied. (He chuckled.)

That reminder of the plucky, selfless JA ( we’re talking the Walt Disney version, here, not the Michael Pollan account) was timely: My image for getting Way Opens into people’s hands has resembled the JA myth. You know, traveling around, talking to people about race and white privilege (there might be a wee bit of another John, John Woolman, wrapped up in my mental image), selling my book when appropriate but giving it away, too; getting the word out.

Timely, too, because the next day (yesterday) I was to give a reading at New England Yearly Meeting with Donna McDaniel, co-author with Vanessa Julye of the amazing Fit for Freedom, Not for Friendship: Quakers, African Americans, and the Myth of Racial Justice. How exciting to sow seeds among Quakers, my targeted audience, alongside the wise and deeply committed anti-racist Donna!

But Donna called Sunday morning to report that because of SO MANY YM activities going on, a notice for our reading hadn’t made it into the daily announcement sheet. So only a handful of people attended our half-hour presentation. Since David and I had driven down to Smithfield, Rhode island, I might have been upset at this small turnout. But I wasn’t and am not.

Here’s why:

It is always a pleasure to spend time with Donna and to hear her take on how the world really works.

The people who did come were lovely: engaged, open, attentive.

It is always good to be reminded how busy and distracted Quakers (aka my targeted audience) are.

Although I did deliver books to the YM bookstore, expending that gas to get to and from Bryant College for so brief and scantily attended an event emphasized something I’ve been lackadaisically pursuing: an online, interactive expansion to this website. Stay tuned.

About those windfalls: Despite wind, rain, and squirrels knocking down bushels of apples (or so it seems), there is still plenty of fruit on our tree. Since there were hardly any blossoms on the tree this wet, cold spring, that there are ANY apples seems a minor miracle. A Johanna Appleseed wannabe, I need to be reminded of Nature’s mystery, its bountifulness, its resiliency, and how, contrary to the biblical enjoiner, seeds cast on rocky soil actually do sometimes germinate—and apples somehow grow  unexpectedly.