There's big news at my house: our neighbor's tree is full of ripe plums, and a few branches hang over the wall next to our house. My office window looks out on their plum tree. I watch leaves fall in autumn and naked branches in winter. I love seeing buds and blossoms emerge in spring, but the season that breaks my heart is when the plums arrive.
Every morning, I take the kitchen trash to the outside garbage can. I walk through the garage, out a door, on to a brick walkway where we store the cans between our house and our neighbors'. During summer, plums often cover the brick and sand. Some mornings, it looks like it rained plums in the night.
I've seen hail the size of golf balls cover a driveway after pelting cars and people during a winter storm. That too is spectacular. But unlike the crashing nature of hail, plums feel like tender and delicious gifts dropped from heaven.
Here's the funny part: Every single morning when I see plums on the ground, 2 or 20, I am surprised.
"Wow, that's a plum," I say to myself and look up at my neighbors' tree, and sure enough there are plums there.
Maybe I'm sleepy as I unload the dishwasher and take out the trash, and that's why I forget that there might be plums on the walkway. Maybe I'm lost in dreams from the night before or worries and thoughts about the day ahead. Still, I forget to expect plums. Other days, I've missed the plums completely. I've stepped barefoot on plums before. This is how I know I've not seen them, and my initial response is usually annoyance. But the cool squish of flattening a plum under my foot brings me back to the tree above me. The other morning, one plum had landed near the doormat as if someone had placed it specifically there.
I imagined the tree saying, "If I put the plum here, exactly where you walk, maybe you will see it." I stepped over the plum on the way out and saw it on my way back into the house.
Here's my question: Is goodness tossed at me every day, all day long, and if it is, how often do I miss it, step over it or look past it?
Regardless of my state of mind, every time I do stop and see a plum on our walkway, I feel as though someone has given me a gift.
"For me?" I said to the plum tree one morning as I gathered a handful of plums. "You shouldn't have." But maybe the tree should have. Maybe we're supposed to offer our gifts to the world with generosity and love. And my job, as a recipient, is to accept the offering, appreciate it and say, "Thank you."
After I see a plum, what is asked of me? That I stop, pick up the plum, take it in the house, wash it, eat it and enjoy it. But the truth is, this is a big ask in a hurried world.
A confession I have to make on the subject of plums is that I've purchased plums at the grocery store when I've had ripe plums hanging from a branch outside my office window. I was zooming around a grocery store bagging peaches and nectarines and grabbed plums, too. I forgot that free plums were hanging over the wall.
What can this mean? It seems I have a hard time accepting that fruit falls freely from the sky. It's a worldview I have to stretch to believe. Am I that much of city kid? Am I that separated from a tree and her fruit? Is a tree intentionally sharing with me? Is there part of me that doesn't feel worthy of receiving free plums from the sky? Is life allowed to have moments that are this sweet and easy?
Some days it feels as though the tree is talking to me and she's saying, "For you. For you. For you."
When I listen to her, I feel the generosity of her offering, and this is when my heart breaks. The plums feel like pennies from heaven. No matter the difficulty of a day, there can be tender, touching moments in nature that feel to me like there's a force out there that's bigger than I am that cares.
And the idea that there is a force, larger than I am, that is offering me food is a thought worth feasting on, particularly while eating a juicy plum over a kitchen sink.
Kathleen Buckstaff is the author of two books that celebrate life and motherhood:Mother Advice To Take With You To College, a collection of hilarious drawings and wise sayings, and The Tiffany Box: A Memoir, an International Best Book Awards Finalist, a true story told through emails and letters.Follow @katbuckstaff