I pick figs daily in the front yard of my apartment building. The treasure hunt of foraging for ripe fruit, the embrace of greenness, pawing my way through the tree, getting deep into its leafy arms—I take as much pleasure in this as in fresh figs. I give half of them away. Birds, wasps, and ants nibble their share of figs, and I often emerge from a dive into the tree with a tiny spider in my hair. Immersion in the branches reminds me of being a child climbing trees, and gives me an odd sense of being one of my distant ancestors. A hunter-gatherer living in a forest.
Out my back window, across the alley, I have a view of a white trailer with chain-link fence around a typical T or C back yard of dirt and gravel. In it is a peach tree, full of fruit that I have watched ripen over the summer, and no one is picking any of it. If you don’t know the desert of New Mexico well, you might be surprised at the way fruit trees thrive here, soaking up sun in the heat of June and water in the downpours of July. Three pomegranate trees, heavy with fruit, bow toward the street on my route to the pool. In front of my apartment, a shrub-like fig tree is producing a massive crop, some newly ripened, many green and still growing. When I lived in Santa Fe, I knew where to find apricots falling to the sidewalks and parking lots, so abundant no owner could possibly pick and eat them all. I have a crisper drawer full of gift peaches from a friend’s neighbor’s tree. As small and velvet-skinned as apricots and just as dense, they are super-sweet, as if growing in a desert made them work harder to become peaches. Still, I look at the ones across the alley behind the fence and see one lying in the gravel, a perfect yellow-and-pink sphere, and it bothers me. A moment someone missed and can never have now, knocked down by yesterday’s storm. It’s not that I want their peaches. I want them to have their peaches.
What aspect of my life is that fallen peach? What is ripe that I am not picking?