Spheres of Sunshine
The harvest was bountiful this season. We prepared well by pruning trees in February and thinning fruit in May. So much time invested, so much labor involved.
What was sacrificed in thinning made little difference at picking. The fruit still hung from branches like grapes on vines. The value of the labor is the limbs saved from fracture under the damaging load and in the spacing allowed each fruit to mature to its greatest potential.
The ones left, those granted clemency, collect heat and light for safekeeping in ripening flesh under fuzzy skin. The thin peel gathering and swirling the colors of the sun itself, growing larger in size and more tinged by yellows and reds as the days of summer lengthen and warm.
Finally when the fruit has absorbed all the energy of summer, we pluck them gently from among the leaves. Set them tenderly into wooden baskets hanging from ladders. Carry them carefully up to the house. Select them thoughtfully, the ripest ones first to lengthen out the glorious period of eating them fresh with cream or sprinkled lightly with sugar. Giving some away, but only to those who truly value the most wonderful things that grow on trees.
The tragedy of a ripe one that falls to the ground, bruised, broken; left to ants, wasps, and bees. A whole year must pass before another will grow in its place. Even broken and battered, some are reverently recovered, ants brushed off, bees shooed away, and bad spots cut out to save the salvageable bits and pieces.
Jars of jam, pints of nectar, and quarts of halves preserved on shelves like bottled rays of sunlight to carry us through the 11 months when fruit isn't hanging heavy, ripe for the picking. During that depressing period when those available in the market taste traitorously foreign.
A peach, the most appealing of all fruit, food of the gods themselves. The sight of a peach ready to eat glows in an ethereal way; blushing deeply all the way to its pit. The scent of a fresh, tree-ripened peach stays in human memory filed under the most pleasurable of reminiscences. And the taste of the last precious peach of the season must carry one through the long months of ice and snow; of scarcity and deprivation; of bare branches, stacked, empty crates, buckets and baskets; and the waiting until sunshine can be harvested once again.