The last thing you want in a book is a perfect protagonist, or one with a perfect life. It doesn’t make for an interesting story. I get my writing kicks out of complicating the lives of my characters, throwing one damn thing after another at them. But I like my life to be as smooth and as sweet as a latte. It never is, of course (is anybody’s?). This, however, seems to be my Season of the Unwelcome.
The peaches are feeling my pain. They’re stressed this year. Diseased or blighted or suffering from the peach flu, I don’t know what it is, but they aren’t happy. They’re mottled in some spots, tough in others, certainly not at their dripping-juice-down-your-arm best.
Now here’s the thing. I have expectations. And as Mr. Petrol Head keeps reminding me, I should know better (he apparently mastered the rather remarkable skill of going through life without expectations back in the crib). If I’ve learned one thing from publishing – from life itself – it’s that expectations bite you in the butt.
I thought I’d beaten back this particular character flaw, especially where my garden is concerned. Out there, I like to think of myself as sanguine (the word has such a nice ring to it, don’t you think?). Some years the peach tree sets a good crop and some years it doesn’t. The same goes for my apples and pears and raspberries and figs and just about anything else I grow. Some years the bees and the weather and the Gods are kind and the harvest is good. When it isn’t, I tell myself there’s always the following year.
Except (and there’s always an except and I’m pretty sure the word except and the word expectation are related). Except, I like to eat the food I grow. (I also like to sell every book I write which is another blog where the word sanguine may or may not appear). But as far as the garden is concerned, I feel as if we have a deal of sorts. I will do the work and step back and let Nature do the rest. If – when – the plants produce, the unspoken rule is the results shall be edible.
This year the peaches are not. At least not as a whole, and not in the way I like my peaches – for breakfast or after lunch or late in the afternoon, peeled with a delicate little knife I bought years back at a flea market. I like my peaches minutes from the tree, fragrant, plain and real.
Not possible this year. Maybe, I decided, the peach tree was trying to tell me something. Maybe it was saying that into every life a little peach pie must fall. That in the Season of the Unwelcome, a little sweet can be soothing. Even for those of us who aren’t dessert people, who rarely indulge, who are so task oriented that they would never consider peeling and slicing and baking peaches into a pie to only pamper themselves. Especially for them, the peach tree seemed to be saying. Especially for them. And so I went into the kitchen where I peeled and sliced and diced, and turned a basket of perfectly imperfect peaches into a deliciously imperfect peach pie.
Thanks peach tree, for giving me the most unexpected and welcome gift of summer.