Sunday, May 11, 2014
Propagation of Fruit
For fourteen years I have walked the circle drive at the Screven County Courthouse. At least once a month for fourteen years I have walked, heels clicking against the pavement, files tucked under my arm or stuffed into a rolling briefcase, toward the double glass doors and the wide tiled hallway that leads to the courtroom. As often as not, in warmer weather, I have walked to the tune of a mower moving back and forth over the front lawn like a metronome, breathing in the shaved grass along with the scent of the roses Mrs. Pullen planted at the front door when she was clerk.
And in all that time, through all those springs and summers when the heat cushioned me like bubble wrap, on all the clear sunny days when the fire trucks at the station next door were sparkling in their just-washed shimmer, in all the early mornings when the puffy white clouds had not yet been burned away, in all that time in which I thought I was paying attention, I never once noticed what I noticed today. And what I noticed today, out of the corner of my eye, was a blackberry.
Not even as large as the tip of my pinky, it was poking its head through the equally tiny leaves of the hedge that runs along the edge of the circle drive. I stood the rolling briefcase upright and looked closer. There were three or four more, all peeking out coquettishly from within the pencil-thin branches that grew like a vast web of veins four feet into the air before sprouting a five o’clock shadow’s worth of greenery.
So I picked them. And popped them into my mouth. And tasted the hardness, the coldness, the bitterness of a not-yet-ripened fruit.
That bitterness, that sharpness that purses lips and leaves teeth tender, it is no accident. There is a reason behind the deterrent to eating fruit that is green and immature. The seeds inside ripe fruit, juicy and tasty, sweet-swelling and enticing, are mature, capable of reproducing. Eaten by animals, the mature seeds are expelled and the cycle begins again. The seeds inside immature fruit are barren. Eat that fruit, those berries and the cycle stops. The circle is broken.
I’d had breakfast. I wasn’t hungry. But who spies the first blackberries of the season and doesn’t pick them? Doesn’t pop them into her mouth without a thought for the chemical nonpareils sprinkled on top? Who in the world, after a winter that dragged on like a soap opera death scene, sees this herald of nascence and renewal and walks on by? Not this girl.
Not this world. We choose precocious over experienced, we honor youth over age, we trade-in and trade-up for whatever is newest and freshest, and ignore what history, personal and human, has taught us – that waiting is not the worst use of one’s time when the stakes are high.
I can’t say am actually sorry for picking the blackberries. At least, not those blackberries. But there are some fruits I have picked too soon, some bites that have left a sour taste in my mouth, some berries I should have left on the vine. And who can forget them? Not this girl.