For weeks color has been creeping up the trees but this weekend we are fully aflame. We’ve been able to spend time wandering down the dirt road watching the leaves spin lackadaisically to the ground. The smell of wood smoke curling out of chimneys is new again.

Paul and I bought a cider press. Each morning we use apple cider in our fruit smoothies so we decided that, along with the forty quarts of raspberries from our garden that we froze, we would press the apples on our property into service. We found that approximately a half-bushel of apples yields a gallon of cider. Juicier apples = more juice. We gathered all the apples on our land and when we ran out of those we carried milk crates, at all times, in the back of all cars in order to be ready at a moments notice to gather apples from the side of the road. It must have been a comical sight to see us leap from our vehicle, crates in hand, frantically picking apples only to run back to the car in to do it all over again a few miles down the back roads.

Along with the cider press we bought an apple chopper so technically there are three jobs in this endeavor; the chopper-cranker, the chopper-feeder, and the presser. Luckily our son, Josh, is around and is young and strong so we quickly gave him the job of chopper-cranker. The chopper-cranker has to turn the crank constantly while it is being fed the apples. I gave myself the job of apple feeder because its much easier to look at the leaves spinning to the ground if all you have to do is toss apples into the chopper. I did find that if you are watching the leaves falling you are likely to throw apples over the chopper instead of into the chopper which tends to irritate your chopper-cranker. I could see the frustration in his eyes even behind the handy-dandy, super-necessary plastic goggles he wore to deflect chunks of chops.

Paul pressed until it became almost impossible to press anything else out and then we had Josh step in and use those twenty-five year old muscles. What was wonderful about making cider is that, even knowing how things work (apples are pressed and juice comes out) there is true magic in putting the pulp into the presser and almost immediately watching the cider flowing out of the holes. No matter how many times we did this (and it was a lot) each time we “ooohed” as cider poured into the steel container. We stuck a community glass under the spout of each batch to taste the first pours. There is something wonderful about sitting outside on a beautiful fall day sharing a glass of apple cider that you have made yourself.

We froze fourteen gallons of cider for the winter. It gives us great pleasure to take what we have, modify it, and make it work for us.

Susan finished playing a piece that was particularly challenging for her and turned to me with a tepid smile. She wasn’t sad but wasn’t happy- she had practiced and clearly was working hard but what was missing in her smile and playing, was joy. We talked technical for a few minutes then I told her what I had seen in her face. I told her that I had read somewhere that Beyonce, the singer, created an alter-ego to help overcome stage fright and simply to become more fierce: the actual word she used. It is obvious that we need to practice, need to put in the time working the music- but of equal importance is finding/creating a joie de vivre, that certain something that resonates through us and into our playing.

When someone is able to tap into that, music becomes much more than playing notes.

The following week I was finishing up with my 12:00 lesson and I heard the familiar clunk of a cello case trying to navigate the narrow path past my washing machine into the music room. Expecting Susan, imagine my surprise when “Suzette” breezed into the room. On the outside Suzette looked suspiciously like Susan but oddly greeted me in french. She wore Susan shoes but a scarf was casually tossed over her shoulders, a beret rode jauntily in on her head, and Suzette’s smile was framed in fire-engine-red lipstick.

Susan is retired from finances, Suzette doesn’t feel the need to work at all.

Susan is careful and calculated, Suzette is flippant and fun.

Susan uses only the first third of her bow, Suzette often uses such big bows that they end up on the floor...and she does not care. Suzette carries several bows for that very purpose.

Suzette has accompanied Susan to several of her lessons. We have found that we allow Susan to be in charge when it comes to things like counting and rhythm, but we let Suzette take the reins when it is time to play with abandon. If I find Sue (a combination of the two) drifting into being particularly careful, her focus causing her bow to dramatically shorten, I ask her to reach up and rub her beret, a touchstone of sorts, to remind her who needs to be in charge of this particular task.

We are finding that it gives her great pleasure to take what she has, modify it, and make it work for her.

Suzette decided that she would like to come into our cello shop and try instruments. She felt that an older cello, with all of it’s character and complexity would suit her better than the cello she had been playing. Beret firmly in place she sat in the shop for several days playing cello after cello. Finally she turned to us with a big red-lipsticked smile and declared: je suis fini!

Interestingly though, when it came time to write the check- it was signed by Susan.

Melissa Perley