Five evenings in a row I have waded through our yard in bare feet, stopped before one of our two overburdened fruit trees, and plucked plumped-up plums or peaches from the branches. I eat as if standing over a sink, bent at the waist and legs spread, letting the sun-warmed juice pour out of the wounds I make in the fruit’s flesh and drip into the summer-thick grass. A peach stain on a T-shirt can mark it for life, but in this desert the grass is greedy for moisture.
While the plum tree has been in business since long before we bought our house, the peach is a new addition, tucked into the ground just three years ago. The woman at the garden center instructed us to nip off all infant fruits for several years so the tree could settle. I would not have obeyed, but the decision was made for us. Until this summer it withheld its treasures from us, choosing instead to grow and spread. And this year, like a gift, it is heavy with peaches, small and sweet and beautiful.
We have more, though, than our twin trees, all flourishing in turn, overlapping their seasons so we always have something fresh and delicious from last frost to first snow. The sugar snaps this spring grew fat on their vines as the tomato plants rooted and flowered. And when the peas withered and died in the summer heat, the tomatoes took over, the plants filling with engorged red orbs.
In July the tiny green globes on our neighbor’s apricot tree, which graciously spans into our backyard, swelled into sweet orange fruits, just waiting for my hands to pluck and eat, one after the other. And eat I did, pulling the fruits from the sun-dappled branches overhead, closing my eyes as the flavor burst on my tongue.
The apricots have long since ceased production and the last of the peaches went to my parents last night. Soon our plum tree will be free of fruit, the bounty shared with friends and family and neighbors, but the first of our cucumbers is now begging to be picked. This evening we will have salads in celebration.
Some people own stoic mansions hidden behind sweeping gates; swimming pools brimming with cool, blue water; low, shiny sports cars that hug the curves in the road at any speed. But a garden and fruit trees are, to me, the greatest of luxuries.