Yesterday, like every other day in August, Kai and I stopped by one of the peach trees by the stables, on our afternoon walk to have a snack and swim. In the New Mexican sun, by late afternoon, the peaches are warm, and so their juices are quite literally flowing. The thought occurred to me that if I used my shirt, I could carry a half dozen home to make apple crisps since I still had six dozen peaches from the White Peach tree. I wondered if the combination of the two kinds of peaches might not be lovely – white with bright red blushes and orange with bright red pit-lining. Those colors beneath the candied crisp of cinnamon, oats and brown sugar – fried, as it is, in the cold-cut butter, would make a good crisp. I had enough to give one to my neighbors and bring one to the office. So that is what we did, little Kai-the-dog and I.
There is a trick to picking apples and peaches – a trick I am just now learning slowly on this gorgeous farm in Albuquerque’s South Valley, lush and green from the Rio Grande’s flowing water and the soil’s insanely rich flood-plain-goodness … red and rich and sticky with ancient nutrients. The key to picking peaches is the speed. Slow. It is slow work. Not because anything slows one down, but because doing this work very slowly is the trick. The hand moves up under the peach, not at it from the side or top. The hand connects to the peach like a space ship moving in to connect to a space lab – carefully, slowly, with hundreds of slight course-corrections for a careful interlocking. Move in too fast and you risk knocking the peach off its stem or branch and too early – too tart.
No it must be slowly. Once the hand is on the warm, soft peach it must only be picked if it falls off into the hand with the smallest, gentlest, quietest tug – almost imperceptible, like a timid question. Most of them need to stay on the tree – more water, more sunlight, more time. They release from the branch by the plant’s permission, not by my grabbing – not by my pulling. A peach is a gift given, not taken.
As I picked the peaches for the two crisps (Kai was cross-eyed trying to make the acquaintance of a June Bug which had landed on his snout in its gorgeous shell – the colors of oil on water in sunlight – purples and blues – but metallic with ridges offering still more beauty. They love peaches too, June Bugs do) it occurred to me that discernment is like picking peaches. Discernment is so different from choice-making or decision-making. It is as if the many thoughts we have about our life hang on the tree of our psyche like peaches in the sunlight of God’s kindly love – warm, a source of life itself – the sunlight is. And it is not until the thought is ready that it should be gently tugged (ever so gently) into hand for use, if ready. Some thoughts should not be pulled too early – thoughts that have not been warmed enough by God’s kindness and fed enough by our own wonderings.
Getting to this silent farm, acres behind its locked gate, is a kind of relief to me. A place to heal from ecclesial PTSD with its bright moon, warm sun and field after field of green – so much green and so much silence. Charged up on caffeine and assaulted by the dings and bells of our phones, the media’s ads and our society’s insane pace, it is easy to start grabbing thoughts and processing them with the rough carelessness of a ham-handed brute juggling eggs. But to slow down, and touch our thoughts gently, the way peaches are meant to be picked, is to pay more attention to the time it takes for our thoughts to be picked carefully, leaving the anxious thoughts on the tree for God’s warmth to soften some and leaving words to hang and ripped some before being spoken.