Today has been like a little preview of fall, a cool gentle breeze, an overcast sky, long sleeves and that delicious desire to hibernate on the couch with a warm cup of tea and a good book. I know it is only late August but as I walked through the stalls of the ever shrinking Farmer’s Market this morning I could not help but smell the slightly acrid bottom notes of burning leaves, if only in my imagination, as I bit into what will surely be one of summer’s last peaches. And what a peach it was. This has been a wonderful year for nature’s bounty. Fresh and affordable local produce has been abundant in the market and in our yard.
We have eaten peaches so sweet they could rival candy, dined on fresh corn and tomatoes bursting with flavor and eaten our weight in mouth watering juicy strawberries gathered at the peak of freshness. As I perused the stalls today I saw the fall’s first pumpkins and gourds on one farmer’s small back table. They were squat and round, small and colorfully warty. I was tempted. I really was. Last year was a rotten year for pumpkin and its kin and there was very little to be had at the market or even on the grocer’s shelves via cans. I could taste that warm crust and smell the spicy sweet nutmeg and cinnamon as I thought of all the baking denied to me during last fall’s shortage.
Pumpkins were so scarce last year that I barely had enough to compete in the annual pumpkin festival bake off. I made far fewer loaves of pumpkin bread than I would have liked and did not bake a single pumpkin pie, let alone a savory dish of pumpkin ravioli or curry. No my obsession with the gourd was mostly denied in 2009 as even in our on demand world we cannot produce a pumpkin, out of season or otherwise, if mother nature decides to put us in our place. It is kind of nice to see the corporate manipulation of nature thwarted occasionally, however, it is still not fun to be denied a pumpkin pie.
These were the kind of things going through my mind as I eyed the meager too-early fall offerings of our local WV farmers. I was tempted but I managed to refrain. I hate to go into department and grocery stores and see Halloween and Christmas décor pushed earlier and earlier every year. I hate to be begged by my daughter to look at Halloween costumes when we have yet to buy notebooks for school and I detest being waylaid by Christmas ornaments and cards while still wearing shorts and t-shirts and putting away Fourth of July flags. I hate the rush and push of the all mighty consumer dollar bullying through every season and losing some of the more precious, less commercially viable holidays along the way. I hate the way Thanksgiving is all but lost as it is crammed into the backside of Halloween rolled into one ubiquitous mess of orange and brown.
So I chose no. I wanted to say yes I really did, I fondled the little knobby gourds and thought of all the clever meals and cute decorations I could have but in the end I knew that buying even one little gourd was a vote against nature and her graceful dance through life’s seasons. I knew that to purchase the early veggie would be silently saying to the farmer, “Yes, this is what I want, and this is when I want it, give me fall’s bounty and give it to me now.” And ultimately that is not what I want. I want to treasure each season and enjoy the nuances and gifts that make each one unique.
I want to eat spring greens and tender peas in the spring. I want to enjoy berries and peaches, tomatoes and peppers in the summer. I want to eat gourds and grain in the fall and I want to reminisce over canned soups and stored potatoes in the winter. I want to feel and savor and enjoy the seasons as we move through them. I do not wish to ski all year round or to swim in the dead of winter. Do not misunderstand me, yes, I enjoy modern conveniences as much as anyone else but I want to be more a part of the nature that surrounds me and less of an intruder. I do not wish to conquer but to live in harmony.
So with all that in mind I turned away from the early birds and their tempting bulbous flesh and back to the magnificent peaches who, like an opera singer trilling an aria on the very cusp of her prime, were beautiful and beckoning in their almost faded glory. Their smell and plump juiciness more than made up for leaving without a pumpkin in tow. I bought a few of the straggling ends of the summer squash and zucchini harvest and intend to make a squash casserole tonight and serve some of this summer’s last peaches as desert.
In this there is a lesson for all of us. It is something that is often lost in our instant gratification culture. We live to constantly fulfill new desires and we often lose sight of the little daily pleasures made available through God’s generosity in our every day existence. In a few months, we will be longing for those summer peaches we snubbed after our gluttony was sated in the August heat, as we reached our sticky fingers forward into the next season’s bounty without even a sigh of gratefulness passing through our juice drenched mouths. It is a shame we rarely take a moment to be thankful, to enjoy to live in this seasons glory without straining towards the next. But I guess that is life, always grasping in the pursuit of more, rarely stopping to smell the peaches.
Thank you for reading,