Heaven on Earth
From the Lord’s Prayer, “On Earth as it is in heaven.” Want to find heaven, just look around you. Every day and every waking moment, you have arrived. Squander your living days by behaving poorly and doing the wrong things, your heaven is lost.
From Patchwork And So Forth ©2005 James A. George, All Rights Reserved.
Chapter 6 Heaven on Earth Adam took fruit from Eve, and we think that it was an apple.
Lydia Maria Child, a suffragette wrote of John Chapman, Johnny Appleseed, of Morrow County, Ohio.
Poor Johnny was bended well-nigh double
With years of toil, and care, and trouble;
But his large old heart still felt the need
Of doing for others some kindly deed.
"But what can I do? " old Johnny said;
"I who work so hard for daily bread?
It takes heaps of money to do much good;
I am far too poor to do as I would."
The old man sat thinking deeply awhile,
Then over his features gleamed a smile,
And he clapped his hands with a boyish glee,
And he said to himself, There's a way for me
He worked and worked with might and main,
But no one knew the plan in his brain.
He took ripe apples in pay for chores,
And carefully cut from them all the cores.
He filled a bag full, then wandered away,
And no man saw him for many a day.
With knapsack over his shoulder slung,
He marched along, and whistled or sung.
He seemed to roam with no object in view,
Like one who had nothing on earth to do;
But, journeying thus o'er the prairies wide,
He paused now and then, and his bag untied.
With pointed cane deep holes he would bore,
And in every hole he placed a core;
Then covered them well, and left them there
In keeping of sunshine, rain and air.
Sometimes for days he waded through grass,
And saw not a living creature pass,
But often, when sinking to sleep in the dark,
He heard the owls hoot and the prairie-dogs bark.
Sometimes an Indian of sturdy limb
Came striding along and walked with him;
And he who had food shared with the other,
As if he had met a hungry brother.
When the Indian saw how the bag was filled,
And looked at the holes the white man drilled,
He thought to himself 'twas a silly plan
To be planting seeds for some future man.
Sometimes a log cabin came in view,
Where Johnny was sure to find jobs to do,
By which he gained stores of bread and meat,
And welcome rest for his weary feet.
He had full many a story to tell,
And goodly hymns that he sung right well;
He tossed up the babies, and joined the boys
In many a game full of fun and noise.
And he seemed so hearty, in work or play,
Men, women and boys all urged him to stay;
But he always said, "I have something to do,
And I must go on to carry it through."
The boys who were sure to follow him round,
Soon found what it was he put in the ground
And so, as time passed and he traveled on ,
Ev'ry one called him, "Old Apple-seed John."
Whenever he'd used the whole of his store,
He went into cities and worked for more;
Then he marched back to the wilds again,
And planted seed on the hillside and plain.
In cities, some said the old man was crazy;
While others said he was only lazy;
But he took no notice of gibes and jeers,
He knew he was working for future years.
He knew that trees would soon abound
Where once a tree could not have been found
That flick'ring play of light and shade
Would dance and glimmer along the glade;
That blossoming sprays would form fair bowers,
And sprinkle the grass with rosy showers;
And the little seeds his hands had spread
Would become ripe apples when he was dead.
So he kept on traveling far and wide,
Till his old limbs failed him, and he died.
He said at the last, "'Tis a comfort to feel ideal."
I've done good in the world, though not a great
Weary travelers, journeying west,
In the shade of his trees find pleasant rest
And they often start with glad surprise,
At the rosy fruit that round them lies.
And if they inquire whence came such trees,
Where not a bough once swayed in the breeze,
The answer still comes, as they travel on,
"These trees were planted by Apple-seed John."
I knew these trees firsthand. I climbed in them. I hung my hammock between them and camped out all night to be awakened at midnight by the town clock, and the hoot of an owl. I ate their fruit, and my beagle dog, Yippy, and I sat in the branches together. Yes, the dog was a tree climber because he wanted to do everything I did.
There was a whole orchard of Winesap and Maiden Blush at Old Man Cook's where I went on more adventures with Grandpa Oscar. The Maiden Blush was a yellow apple with a pink cheek. It had a strong sweet fragrance, and was soft and juicy when ripe. I liked them best baked with raisins and a red cinnamon candy on top.
On the edge of town, "Old Man Cook" lived across from Adcock's Woods in a cabin adjacent a very large apple orchard. We drove through the gate and up next to the cabin. Grandpa Oscar visited the old man to make sure he was alright as he had no relatives.
Hardly anyone went there so he must have heard us coming, but he did not come out to greet us. I am certain that he rarely saw children. We got out of Grandpa's Mercury and Oscar yelled, "Cook, are you home?"
We could see him through the screen door. We approached and his kindly black Labrador retriever ambled to with his tail wagging. Cook invited us in.
When I got inside, I could see that he was finishing a bowl of corn flakes. I looked around his kitchen and noticed a pile of dirty dishes, and dishevelment. I felt more comfortable outside and asked if I could look around out there and play with his dog.
He said, "Why sure."
Out we went. The barking Lab raced right straight for a barn situated next to the orchard.
I was more interested in climbing a tree and picking an apple than chasing after the dog. However, the dog was making such a ruckus; I had to see what it was doing, up close.
The dog was barking in a hole under the barn, and I looked in as far as I could see into the dark space. Maybe it was a black snake. I could handle that. Maybe it was a rabbit or opossum. Suddenly, I saw movement and the dog squeezed under.
Out popped a black and white skunk, spraying away in all directions, and of course, it hit me squarely in several spots.
By this time, Grandpa and Old Man Cook came out to see and they could surely smell the dog and me.
At first they laughed, but then Grandpa began to think about how he was going to get me home. I could not sit in his clean car smelling like that. It was too far to walk.
"Jimmy, take off your clothes and go stand next to the hose," Grandpa commanded. Old Man Cook hosed the dog and me down, and while it felt better to be cooled off, the stink just didn't go away.
"When you get home, have your mother wash you in tomato juice," advised Cook. That would take a lot of juice, I thought.
Grandpa put my clothes in a grocery sack and closed it up tight. He opened the car trunk and told me that could ride back there with lid up all the way home. That sounded good to me.
What I did not know is that the dirt from the gravel road would blow in on my sweaty body, adding a coat of grime to my ripe skunk odor. Well, I can tell you, we pulled up to the house. I got out with my bag of clothes, and Grandpa drove away as fast as possible. Next, well, you know, and so forth.
Now, you see the pattern of behavior from Grandpa George. I was influenced by this. What you don't know are some of the details about him. A stout man, like my brother, he was intensely outgoing and boisterous (not like my brother), glad to yell across the street to say hello. Some say he was intrusive in that he would startle a pastoral scene by his mere presence.
He was also impatient.
Before it was discovered that my brother Tim needed glasses, Grandpa called to us in the back yard, "Boys, I have something to show you. “
Come here." He called. We approached as he waved for us to come carefully. There was a clump in the tall grass and we hovered over to see. It was a baby bunny. I saw it. Tim could not see.
"Look, Timmy. It is right there, do you not see it?" he asked impatiently. "What is wrong with you, can't you see it?"
At that moment, I sensed from his tone and demeanor accusing frustration, an attack personality that pressured my little brother too much as he began to cry.
Tim wanted to see the bunny, but his eyes failed him and it was not for lack of trying. I sensed unfairness in the repeated questioning, "What is wrong with you?" Grandpa persisted.
He just needed glasses.
By now, you have heard enough about Grandpa Oscar, so I will describe some of my own self-initiated adventures.
My cousin, Jimmy Taylor, lived on Cedar Street one block to the North of Elm Street. He lived at the top of the hill on a different slope.
Jimmy came over to play softball with my brother and me in the side yard. Jerry Rawls joined us, another friend from across the street.
After playing ball for awhile, we all talked about the water tower looming overhead. We all thought how great it would be to climb the tower, but at this point being eight years old or so, I wasn't up to leading us beyond a few steps up the ladder.
We went there to talk about it and to see it firsthand.
Then I asked the boys if they knew about Mr. Garver. Mr. Garver lived in a gray spooky house, without paint, near the water tower. Behind his house was a barn with all kinds of interesting stuff. I always said hello to him as he was the retired mayor of Mt. Gilead and a friend of Grandpa Oscar. I thought that he wouldn't mind if I showed the boys around inside the barn. Since the door was ajar, it must be open for touring, I thought.
We all went inside and I noticed that muskrat and rabbit traps were all set and chained to the floor. He must be expecting varmints!
I knew how traps work because Great Uncle Oliver George was a trapper and he showed me. I went outside and found some sticks. I told the boys to stand back as I threw sticks at the traps. One by one they went snap against the sticks, breaking them in two. Wow, that was powerful!
My big-eyed friends and brother were truly impressed.
Let's do it again, I offered. I asked Jimmy Taylor to help me pry back the spring jaws into the set position. There were several of these traps on the floor, and we reset them one by one.
There was one remaining, and I reached down to set it when, crack, the trap shut on my fingers. I didn't realize that I had not sprung it before, and now my fingers with me screaming and attached to the barn floor yelled for my Mom!
My brother Timmy went running for her, and she must have heard because she got there very quickly. She pried the trap from my fingers and said let's get home and get some ice on them. She knew what to do, and fortunately I had no broken fingers, only broken pride at having done all that screaming in front of the boys.
We all had homemade popsicles and this traumatic moment was over. The pattern was set, however, as Mom would have to come to the rescue many times hence.
What did I learn from this? If you are going to do something daring, you had better practice first. I learned the hard way as I would forget this lesson several times before it sunk in.
A few years before, I began kindergarten at Mt. Gilead Elementary School where my father and mother both attended. Mrs. Potter was my teacher, a tall dark haired woman in her late forties or early fifties. She was exceptionally kind to all of us, I remember.
Every day we came to school and followed a routine. We sat at wooden desks where we had oil cloths to put on top. My mother involved me in the oil cloth selection, as well as selecting the nap rug.
Mrs. Potter read stories. We had a phonics lesson. We sang some songs together, and then we recessed.
Recess meant going outside in the schoolyard where there were swings, teeter totters and a big slide. We often played some organized game. In the end, we were all exhausted and returned for the nap period on our rugs.
I liked phonics because at the end of each reading, we would color pictures that illustrated the lesson. I enjoyed the coloring so much that I took my book home and colored all of the pictures. When kindergarten teacher Mrs. Potter caught a glimpse of my coloring progress she exclaimed, "Jimmy, you have ruined your lesson. You colored ahead and now what are you going to do at the end of the lesson to keep busy?"
I thought about the answer. I could go outside and swing. I could look at another book. I could play with toys as they were right there in sight.
But, as directed by Mrs. Potter, at the end of each lesson while others were coloring, I had to put my head down on my desk. That was OK with me as I had more time to dream.
I had other encounters with Mrs. Potter, whom I actually liked. We had gym class where we went to the indoor basketball court surrounded by bleachers. I was impressed by bleachers and the potential they held for mischievous climbing and hiding. We all marched in and sat on the bleachers while Mrs. Potter explained the game for this period. The game was usually some form of ball tag. I knew the rules as they were intuitive so I talked to my friends while she informed the others.
"Jimmy, stop talking while I am instructing." She commanded.
Impatiently, I stopped for a moment while she resumed her spiel about standing here and standing there, and when the ball comes, dodge this way or that, as when the ball hits you, you are out, and so forth.
"Dicky, what do you want to do after school today? Do you want to come to my house and play outside?" I asked.
"Alright, Jimmy, do you want to tell everybody what you are talking about since it is so important that you must speak while I am speaking? Come here, Jimmy and stand in the circle and we will all listen to what you have to say." Mrs. Potter directed.
At this moment, I was frustrated by being commanded when and when not to talk. I was five years old, though I sensed a serious challenge. My face turned red with so much attention, though I knew that I must follow through, having been trained by the best of our local politicians. I marched forward where I was surrounded by serious faces of those who joined on the side of the right. I believed my compatriots were sympathizing with my plight and that I must stand tall for them.
Mrs. Potter said that I must address the class by saying "Look at me, I am Jimmy George, and I want all of your attention. I cannot be quiet. Look at me." I did this and added the following.
"Yes, Mrs. Potter, I was just asking Dicky if he wanted to come to my house to play after school, and I am asking Billy, Skippy, and Jerry to come over too!" I addressed the class.
"Well, Jimmy, since you cannot be quiet while I am speaking, you must stay on the bleachers while the others play ball tag." Mrs. Potter commanded.
I returned to my seat, and continued to dream about activities after school. I wondered if Mother would make cool aid for us in a nice pitcher with ice.
I was learning authority, though had not yet learned to respect those outside my family command structure. I began to sense right from wrong, and experienced that decisions had to be made with trade-offs. Mrs. Potter was a nice lady, and I did not want to be cross with her. From that moment on, we would have no more trouble. I knew that in school some people would take longer to understand things and that I would have to find appropriate ways to keep busy. Dreaming would become my passion.”