Steaming over something or other with a little politics thrown in, I took myself for a walk up our long gravel drive the other day. Might as well get some exercise if you’re going to be in a fuming frame of mind.
So the gift I found at the end of the drive caught me totally by surprise.
We moderns don’t believe it’s possible that we’ll ever get something for nothing. We’re too well schooled in the ways Facebook and other “free” internet sites make millions of dollars out of us.
Consider the humble persimmon. I had to, when right there on the road in front of my foot were four perfect little gems.
They hadn’t been there the hour before when I took our dog out for a walk. They had just dropped and weren’t yet squashed by a car or claimed by the hordes of birds and raccoons who wait for them every fall.
If you’re not from the rural South, you may be unfamiliar with the persimmon. Just think tiny mango, in a gentle red-orange instead of green. They don’t fall till they’re completely ripe: completely squishy, that is, and if they’re not, you don’t want to bite into one. Unless you like your mouth puckering up with an astringency beyond description.
The persimmon is the poor man’s mango, a fruit I didn’t taste until I was well past middle age. When I was a kid, fruit meant red delicious apples and canned fruit cocktail. Unless we were visiting my North Carolina grandparents in early fall. There we ate muscadine grapes warm off the vine and picked gnarled, sweet-tart apples from a hunchbacked tree behind the garden.
Now that our small-town groceries carry mangoes, I’ve had a few, and last week our neighbor brought us back several from her farm in Florida.
They’re huge, approaching the size of one of those souvenir mini-footballs. Soft as butter, sweeter than honey: after one bite, I wondered who needs ice cream when there’s fruit like that?
(Scratch that thought: everyone needs ice cream.)
But mangoes, muscadines, and apples have to be tended by someone. Pruned, sprayed, you name it. The persimmon just–grows. At least that one does. I certainly didn’t plant it. I don’t do anything to tend it. And I sure didn’t climb the fifty feet or so to harvest it. I simply gathered what fell to me.
In short, I didn’t do anything to earn it, but I walked back to the house with a handful of soft, warm fruit. Where it struck me: isn’t that a lot like life? We didn’t do anything to deserve it. We certainly didn’t earn it. And yet–here we are. We’ve been given something–a whole universe of it, in fact–for nothing.
That’s a nice counterweight to this week.