Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Bounty: You Can't Say No to Mother Nature

On Valentine's Day I received a large box delivered by the post office. In it was twenty pounds of ruby red grapefruit and navel oranges from Texas, a gift from an old friend – what bounty!!! For the next few weeks I will be feasting on the most succulent of citrus fruit and, believe me when I say, I will enjoy every bite.

There is something wildly luscious and satisfying about unexpected bounty. A few weeks ago I was reading an email from a friend who went south for the winter. She and her husband just decided to escape Cape Ann for a the winter months by renting a cottage in Florida. When they got to their retreat she discovered a star fruit tree in their yard, loaded down with fruit. She called their landlady who said, “just ignore it.” Of course she couldn't. She was serving star fruit at every meal and asked me what I would do with a mother-lode of this delicate fruit. I wrote back with my recipe for lemon curd and suggested she try it with star fruit instead of lemon. I'm dying to know how it turned out.

Her situation made me think of other times in my life when I was on the receiving end of such bounty. One time, when I was in college, my dad called me one Thursday evening with the news that a farmer friend had called in a panic. It was late September and he had a field full of corn – and a heavy frost was predicted for that night. He told everyone he knew they could have all the corn they could pick as long as they got it before the frost came. I cut my Friday classes and drove home. Dad and a couple brothers had just arrived with a truck bed full of corn and we worked through the night par-boiling, cutting, packing and canning. By the time the corn was all “put by” I had so much corn starch in my hair it stood out at 90 degree angles.

When the earth gives you bounty you can't say no.

Some years later I was living in Texas and a few girlfriends and I rented a cottage on Matagorda Island. We got there to discover that in back of our cottage was a small grove of fig trees loaded to the ground with plump, succulent figs. A call to the owners of the cottage provided the information, let the birds have them. There was no way my mother's daughter could stand for that. We drove to the nearest shopping center and stocked up on sugar, a few lemons, and jars. My girlfriends, who had been planning on spending the weekend tanning their fannies, were not thrilled about this but we left that cottage with 40 jars (10 apiece) of succulent fig preserves. I cherished every single jar and I hope my friends did too.

To me there is something irresistible when it comes to unexpected bounty. I've always felt it was tantamount to a sin to ignore it. One summer I was living in Maine with a friend and we discovered that there was a slope leading down to a golf course in back of the house that was covered in red raspberry bushes. Every morning I would get up and go out and pick raspberries for as long as I could. I made raspberry jam and froze bags of raspberries. That autumn, when I was moving to Massachusetts, the only thing we argued over was the raspberries. I figured, since I picked them and put them by, that made them mine. My friend thought I was being mean – so we split those that were left.

A similar thing happened in the Dominican Republic. I was staying with a friend and had obtained permission to swim in a neighbor's pool. While I was swimming there were soft plop-plops in the water which turned out to be grapefruits from a tree hanging over the pool. Every morning I gathered up the grapefruit in the pool to take home with me but I always wound up giving half away before I got there.

Recently I read about a woman who was recovering from a bad breakup and had retreated to a house in the country to lick her wounds. While there she went walking early in the morning and discovered a huge tree covered with yellow plums. She tried to find out who it belonged to because the plums were getting very, very ripe but no one knew. So she got a basket and every day she walked out to the tree and filled the basket with fruit then took the fruit to a food pantry in the nearby town. She said that picking the sun-warmed fruit, and taking it to people who were thrilled to get such a great treat, was the most healing thing she could have done for herself.

Accepting bounty is its own reward.

Thanks for reading.

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