Saturday, July 18, 2009

Time Travel, via the Plum

First of all, I must apologize if the Asian plums by the north fence (see an earlier picture of them, too, flowering back in April) belong to a particular gardener.

Because I ate one.

I seem to think I remember that they were community plums, but it could be that I just had a selective memory lapse. Brought on by the sight of plums. And the smell of plums. And the proximity of plums. And the half-eaten plum (brought by some passing biped or bird or rodent and cast off) in my patch, which made me look about for its source, see the embarrassment of riches on the north fence, go to investigate, and then either commit a crime or simply enjoy a burst of sweet juiciness on a summer Saturday.

Which sent me plunging around in my mind's archive of memories back to the South and the plums that grew by the storm shelter out by the farm. They were tinier than these plums, no larger than a plump cherry--I have no idea who planted them or when, but they featured heavily in my visits home until my early 20s, when the trees just finally gave out.

We would gather them in large plastic pickle buckets from Atkins Pickles in Russellville, AR (why did we have those buckets and why do I remember them?) and take them in and make jar after jar of the most delicious plum jelly.

The harvest was not so pleasant: I was sure there were copperheads waiting to bite me, or at the very least, chiggers and ticks (the last part was always true). But making the jelly with my aunts and uncles, the laughter and storytelling and foam on the top of the simmering juice and heat rising in waves into the already hot and humid kitchen and the clinking of Mason jars and the golden gleam of lids and rings on the white tea towels and my dad always washing dishes, humming--ever humming...

All these things and more were in the pop of that skin and the sweet-tart juice this afternoon by the north fence.

Thank you, fellow gardener, if that was your plum.

It was surely sustaining, in any number of ways.

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