Tuesday, September 20, 2011

A Peach is a Moment

A peach is a moment in time. It's can't be stopped, or hurried, or held in stasis. A peach, a ripe peach, is just a moment.

The past few weeks have been high peach season in West Michigan. The farmer's market has full, round peaches overflowing in pint and peck and half bushel baskets. Pinkish ones, small orange ones, pale, nearly white fuzzy ones.

I buy small quantities of peaches. Only as many as we can reasonably consume in a short time.

While I buy tomatoes, beets, apples, pears, cauliflower by the half bushel or bushel, I buy peaches by the pint or if pie is to be made, a half peck.

They'll ripen all at once, in the refrigerator, on the counter. No matter what you do, they'll ripen. And all at once. Suddenly the same peach, once ripe, feels heavier, as though it swelled up over night. And it's soft, with a little squeeze to it. It's ripe. And it's sweet. And just the touch of a knife opens it, and somehow the juice is contained, suspeded in the pulp and flesh of the fruit. Open the fruit to soon, and it's hard and flavorless. Too late and the juice falls out before eating it. But at just the right moment, a window in time, the flesh is sweet and full and juicy and flavorful, and the floral scent fills your nose and lingers on your hands.

A ripe peach excites all the senses.

I don't can peaches.

I don't bother.

A canned peach is an approximation of a peach. It's a re-animated body of a peach. It is the vague suggestive flavor of a peach.

A peach can't be held in time.

It doesn't have the loyalty, and durability of an apple, which you can dry or smash into a sauce and put it in the stasis of a can for years and recover a high level of joy. Especially if you're opening a honey crisp apple sauce, which is almost maple-syrup-ish, almost carmalized.

An apple can defy time. An apple will wait for you.

But a peach won't. A peach can't. A peach is more than just flavor, or sweetness. It's texture, scent, the sound of biting into it.

You can't hold it.

You can't put it into stasis to enjoy later.

The summer winds down, and the peaches hang heavy on the trees until they find their ways into piles in baskets at the farmer's market. And for that moment and that season, there is nothing so beautiful as a fresh, ripe peach. Close your eyes and feel it between your teeth as it fills your senses. There's a new chill in the air. And the wind is picking up. Blue days turn to overcast, and fog moves in off the lake each morning. The edges of the trees are red. There's a light, sweet, burning oakwood smell to the air in the evenings as people take the edge off the colder nights.

And then it's gone until next year.

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