Your command is my wish: Võta õun! – Take an apple! Photo: Riina Kindlam
Just like the Beaver Scouts motto (yes, it’s a Scouts Canada thing… younger than hundud or cub scouts), “Sharing, sharing, sharing” (jagamine, jagamine, jagamine) is what Estonians would much sooner do than have anything go to waste (raiskamine). Perhaps this is where the swear word “raisk” comes from…? Food spoiling (riknemine) is definitely a form of wastefulness and so boxes and basketfuls of apples are often put out right in front of people’s houses. There was a basket of õunad passed around in my 1st grader’s class this afternoon, and it’s hard to find a workplace kitchen in Eesti in September void of a communal bowl of apples.
This basket was spotted at last weekend’s Uue Maailma Tänava/festival (street festival). Uus Maailm (New World) is a neighborhood in central Tallinn, which got its name from a 19th century American pub (“Ameerika kõrts”) located across the street from the current Kosmose cinema on Pärnu maantee, says Vikipeedia. Must be why there are streets named Suur- (Large), Kesk- (Middle) and Väike- (Small) Ameerika nearby. More specifically, this basket was beside the entrance to the local upstart neighborhood library called Kapsad (Cabbages). If you read a book to shreds, then sa lugesid selle kapsaks – you read it until it began to look like a cabbage. The basket seen here is hand made, woven vitstest, of vitsad – slender, flexible branches. Vitsa saama, means you get swatted with a bunch of the same. Some Estonian santas have been known to carry a vits under their belt as a visual reminder.
We have a neighbor on the isle of Saaremaa, who moans and groans every year about there not being enough family members to eat all the apples, reminisces about how during the Soviet era apples were purchased en masse and collectively made into juice, and then proceeds to cart and dump käru/täied (wheelbarrowfuls) of the sweeties in the woods or on the field. She also threatens to take the older apple trees down each year, since they produce such a bother. I find that hard to hear.
At the end of August, I was reminded of how resilient õuna/puud can be – with boughs hanging low to the ground with fruit, even branches that break under the load or during winter, continue to blossom and yield fruit, if any sap at all is still flowing through the break! Looking old and slightly scraggly? Some might say “Võtke see vanur maha!” (“Take that oldie down!”), but one such elder still gives us the biggest, best valged klaarid (white transparents) you could dream of. The tree stays, until she decides it’s time to go.