Clinging to peaches

Here’s how good this year’s peaches have been. Earlier this week, PW said, “Fifty years from now we’re going to be saying to each other, ‘Remember that summer 50 years ago when the peaches were so good??'”

So here we are in October. The days are getting shorter. The time change is a month away, after which it will be dark here around 4:15. The window on the availability of these extraordinary peaches is rapidly closing. My father is in surgery at this very moment. My officemate is burying her last remaining grandparent, also at this very moment. Beloved friends and mentors are grappling with cancer, surgeries, traumas of all kinds. My boss just buried her best friend, dead from cancer at 42. Friends are rocked by controversies and conflicts in their vocations. I could go on, but, really, the headline I haven’t seen in any newspaper or social media feed is: 15 Reasons Why You Should Try One Of This Year’s Peaches.

The peaches stand alone.0916141325

Later this afternoon I’ll head over to the farmers market in hopes of collecting another batch of these fuzzy globes of summer, along with whatever straggling tomatoes I can find. And we’ll eat them under the shadow of the fear: “What if they’re never this good again?”

Lately I’ve had this sticky mantra in my head: “Forget the steps already trod.” It’s from the hymn, “Awake My Soul Stretch Every Nerve.” It pops up like surprise toast at the weirdest times. It’s got me wondering if fear is just another way of rehashing the steps already trod, of clinging to the memory of this summer’s peaches even as we’re still eating them. I wonder if fear is a way of hunkering down against every nerve being stretched (and, inevitably, plucked).

This Sunday’s New York Times Magazine will include an article about the writer, Marilynne Robinson, whose latest book “Lila” is being published this month. The article begins with Robinson weighing in on fear:

“I hate to say it, but I think a default posture of human beings is fear.” Perched on the edge of a sofa, hands loosely clasped, Robinson leaned forward as if breaking bad news to a gentle heart. “What it comes down to — and I think this has become prominent in our culture recently — is that fear is an excuse: ‘I would like to have done something, but of course I couldn’t.’ Fear is so opportunistic that people can call on it under the slightest provocations…Fear has, in this moment, a respectability I’ve never seen in my life.”

Can we overcome our fear with the very peaches that provoke it? It’s an experiment I’m willing to try. Even before my experiment is over, I submit this poem as an abstract for the endeavor. I’ve included it in my blog before, but it bears repeating.

From Blossoms
by Li-Young Lee

From blossoms comes
this brown paper bag of peaches
we bought from the boy
at the bend in the road where we turned toward
signs painted Peaches.

From laden boughs, from hands,
from sweet fellowship in the bins,
comes nectar at the roadside, succulent
peaches we devour, dusty skin and all,
comes the familiar dust of summer, dust we eat.

O, to take what we love inside,
to carry within us an orchard, to eat
not only the skin, but the shade,
not only the sugar, but the days, to hold
the fruit in our hands, adore it, then bite into
the round jubilance of peach.

There are days we live
as if death were nowhere
in the background; from joy
to joy to joy, from wing to wing,
from blossom to blossom to
impossible blossom, to sweet impossible blossom.

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15 responses to “Clinging to peaches

  1. Interesting that, living where you do, you have gotten hold of some of the few peaches that were not killed by frost this spring. I am a literalist, but there’s something great just about the fact that you have tasted the rare peaches of the summer of 2014. If the moment is intense, sometimes a person can live in it.

  2. Wonderful, Joy. Beautifully stated.

  3. We’ve had an incredible summer for peaches and also a terrible summer for other things. This resonated greatly. Thanks for writing and sharing it.

  4. Your writing hits the spot, Joy! And I was similarly delighted to find one more round of NJ peaches the other day — thought they were done. How I relate to your discussion of fear: I’m afraid of being fearless, yet I crave being so, and am so as often as I can be. Being fearless is my extreme sport — no adrenalin rush is better than the one that comes with being fearless!

  5. As T. S. Eliot said:
    I grow old … I grow old …
    I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.

    Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare to eat a peach?
    I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach.
    I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.

    I do not think that they will sing to me.

  6. Marlene Krueger

    Joy, thanks again for such beautiful and and thought provoking words. Somehow they always touch my soul.

    We have thinking about your dad this morning and hoping that all goes well with the surgery as well as his after care. I sometimes worry about your mom as she uses all that she is and has to take of your dad. I emailed this to both my daughter and daughter-in-law. I think they will appreciate it as much as I have.

  7. It’s been a year for pears out here. But I do remember another peach year, maybe 15 years ago. And I remember the first peach pie I ever tasted, maybe 30 years ago. Revelatory.

  8. Our neighborhood is usually resplendent with fruit in this time of year, but drought has been hard on everything. Our apples and lemons are falling off the tree, and the neighbor’s peaches appear to have come in early.

  9. “from joy/to joy to joy” but really to me, and anyone else lucky enough to read the words you’ve gathered together here. Beautiful, my sister.

    No word from mom yet, but Pen’s heading out to the hospital as I type.

    And type/and type and type. Loooong hours this week. The upside is, free lunches and dinners almost every day for those of us on this project. The downside is, not one peach. The upside is, no fear that I’ll never eat peaches that good again, cuz there weren’t any. The downside is, nothing I’m writing deserves to share the same language as that Li-Young Lee poem. The upside is, I just read the poem again. Thanks for reminding me of it and for being my sis and for eating all the peaches. Hey, wait a minute…

  10. Lovely,
    I can just see you heading to the farmer’s market. I miss the market and Boston so much!

  11. I love that “clinging to peaches” whatever did people mean when they put the expression cling peaches on the label of a can?

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  13. Good to have you back and on your game as always. Beautifiul piece. Hope there’s good news on your dad. We’ve made ourselves a total mess eating peaches this season — best done over the kitchen sink, with a moaning monologue to accompany. (Sending you a pic of our two — count them two — peaches from the Berkshires tree. They were divine and all the better for their blossoms’ having lived thru the frost to come to maturity months later.) Are they enough to balance the other stuff? Maybe not, but it’s a place to start. Write on, Dear.

  14. Some how I just found this bite of summer in mid-December. It reminds me, too, of one of my favorite mantras derived from a family hike on a path that turned out to be mostly paved (accessibility! but also, hard on the body.) We finally found a section of path that was unpaved and excitedly stepped onto the dirt, only to notice that it was paved again up ahead. But at that moment, it wasn’t, and we were in the dirt. We remind each other, “right now, path” to recall the glory of where we stand, what we eat, who we’re with in the moment, even when we’re moving, even when the meal will be consumed shortly, and even when the presence of those we love, or our reading of their blog post, must come to an end. Thank you, Joy.

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