A woman at my office has a plum tree in her backyard. Every week I walk into the communal kitchen to a cookie sheet piled high with thin-skinned, sweet-tart fruit. It's kept me from the grocery store for two weeks now as I try to eat through my storage supply before The Big Move, destination TBA. I have to be out of my apartment in eight days. I've applied for places. I spend all of my free time hunting for places. When this is all over, I want a long bath, a good book and a glass of wine the size of my head. A slice of peach crisp, the fruit still toothsome and the oatmeal well-done, flecked with cinnamon and a hint of nutmeg.
"I have to watch whom I let pick from my trees," the woman mentions to me one morning as we fix our coffees. "You have to be careful, otherwise all of the fruit will drop to the ground." As I've grown older, it seems my decisions hold more weight than they used to: the consequences feel heavier. I'd never minded my mistakes before; failed kitchen debacles, lousy apartment choices, money unwisely, nights that bled into mornings, were all woven into what it means to be alive. I was watering my wisdom. These days I mainly try to keep the fruit on the tree or in my belly, trying to prevent everything from spoiling along the roots of the tree.
Last summer, when I took part in a renegade-type of not-for-profit group that picked urban-grown fruit for charities, we'd discuss how we'd use our bounty. There was rarely enough to do much of anything with, but there were always leftover apples. I made several pints of applesauce that I used in baking throughout the winter. Sometimes, when I feel like I'm out of resources, I think about those apples. I think about the crab apples my sister and I picked from my Nan's yard when we were kids, removing the worms with knives and eating the crunchy, sour flesh plain, mouths puckering. They weren't perfect, but they were salvaged.
There's a lot to say about our world in light of the shooting in the Colorado movie theatre or the shooting in Little Italy or the myriad of other events that have occurred in the past few weeks. But this is what we're left to work with; this is the mess we're to pick up after. The real challenge, so it seems sometimes, is not to prevent plums from falling the ground -- this they're going to do regardless of our interference or lack thereof -- but to see what we can do with them, to work with them, and to show others by our example how to make the most of what's been left behind to rot.
Until then, I'll deam of genies and peach crisps, of wine and relief.