My first thought when September rolled around was that I hadn’t eaten enough peaches this summer.
I had enjoyed an amazing watermelon or two, some honest-to-goodness, ripened-in-the-field tomatoes, and a couple of freshly picked ears of local corn, which brought tears to my eyes.
In the abundance that is always summer, I had not celebrated the once-a-year, only-in-the-summertime joy of eating my fill of perfect peaches.
Two days later, while driving to a repair shop in an adjoining town (it has truly been that kind of everything-breaking-down summer, complete with the added insult of ants in our kitchen), my husband spied an Amish farmstand beckoning us to stop.
The farm display was a cacophony of summer with overflowing boxes of tight-skinned ripe red tomatoes, baskets of perfectly round unblemished peaches, mounds of just-picked-that-morning corn on the cob, and a jumble of football-sized cantaloups scattered on a table.
My husband went for the tomatoes. I headed to the peaches.
“These are the last of the peaches. There won’t be anymore tomorrow,” the farmer called out as I began to fill my bag.
There won’t be anymore tomorrow.
His warning made me stop and think about all I’d missed this summer while caught up in the worry of the world and just too much busyness.
I chose two more peaches to add to my bag. I’d picked out a dozen in all: big baseball-sized golden globes of the best of summer. I began making a mental plan to have some sliced for breakfast as soon as they had turned slightly soft to the touch, then cook the rest in a biscuit-topped cobbler.
Peach cobbler is meant to be shared. It is the dish that signifies everything that is good about friendship and summertime. I put another peach in my bag to be sure I’d have enough for company, then began dreaming about what I’d make for one more summer supper: fresh corn on the cob and some green beans tossed with roasted sweet potatoes—all drenched in olive oil and generously seasoned with salt and pepper; tomato salad; chilled cantaloupe soup; and, of course, peach cobbler.
“The peaches were picked this morning. Last of the harvest. They’re hard as rocks,” the man in the Amish hat said as he watched me fill my bag. “Don’t put them in the refrigerator. Let them ripen on your kitchen counter.”
Every summer seems to have a way of slipping by you without much of a howdy-do, or by-the-way warning.
This summer was a goner from the first hot day of June.
I was peeved that I had allowed this summer to slip by unnoticed and unappreciated.
As we paid for our peaches, tomatoes, and last-minute choice of a cantaloupe, I thought about everything that happened in the world this summer: drought, floods, fires, tornadoes, hurricanes, and earthquakes, in addition to some pretty alarming political upheaval. The list was staggering, and I realized I had let all that fill my mind, which had made it hard to appreciate anything: a day at the pool with our grandchildren, a night counting the fireflies in our backyard, or a trip to a local farmer’s market to find more peaches.
I had let the easy joys of summer pass me by.
Life is all about choices, and about digging our heels in and making conscious choices rather than letting the constant stream of chaos and self-imposed worry carry us blindly along from sunrise to sunset, summer to fall.
Having missed some of the best summer has to offer made me realize that I needed to shift some priorities in my life and refocus on the everyday joys of living. When David Letterman asked singer-songwriter Warren Zevon if he had any advice for living a good life, he answered: Enjoy every sandwich.
It’s really all about peaches and the fact that it’s September and there won’t be anymore tomorrow.
Instead, there will be sweet potatoes, fat pumpkins, and the chance to go to a local orchard with our children and grandchildren to pick more apples than we could possibly eat with the hope that there will be enough left over for at least one big pie or my biggest casserole dish overflowing with maple syrup topped apple crisp.
I’m taking Zevon’s sage advice. I’m not going to let autumn roll by without tasting and sharing everything it has to offer.
I hope you’ll do the same.