Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Franciscan Fruit

Orchards are often placeholders for suburbs. One such orchard had been planted by Franciscan monks in the late 1700's and then abandoned when the Spanish monarchy deemed the local abbey a failure. For several decades following this departure, the Native Americans enjoyed the succulent fruits during the summertime. This continued until white settlers rushed in to fill the territories taken during the Mexican American War.The settlers were so surprised at the sweetness of the peaches that they built a town in near the abbey and expanded the orchard all across the county. The peach trees remained in the same family until it was purchased and removed by an urban development team in the late 60s. Despite the complete scouring of that orchard to make way for 500 identical homes, there was some part of those peaches that remained long after the trees were gone. Some claim that it was a blessing sent from God because of the sacred beginnings of that orchard. Others, of course, claimed the devil lived among heathens and Catholics and that he was in the fruit. Still others believed that something that delicious could never be forgotten.

Whatever the reason, the peaches remained. But no one knew until an old resident of that suburb named Nolan Spriggan discovered the peach blossoming in his living room. He was reading the obituaries one evening when he was distracted by an object floating above his coffee table. He thought it was a spider hanging from the ceiling and kept reading. When he put down the paper several minutes later he noticed it again and then realized it had a leaf. Upon examining the object closely he discovered it was a budding plant. He waved his hand above, below, and to every side trying to find how this strange thing was hanging but found that it was suspended in mid air. Nolan feared he might be experiencing early onset Alzheimer's and so he invited his daughter and grandchildren over the next day to verify the strange thing. They thought he was trying out a new prank but upon inspection could learn no more about how the little bud was floating.

One day, several weeks later. Nolan sat down to read the paper. Half way through he glanced at the ripe peach and realized that without a doubt, he would have to eat it. He walked over and stood under and paused under the beautiful fruit. He was somewhat sad that this would be the end to the phenomenon but it was a better ending than letting it rot and fall to the floor. Nolan reached up and twisted the peach. It came off, leaves and all. No trace of the peach remained in the air. Nolan held the ripe fruit to his mouth and nose and inhaled with both. The smell of childhood summers and canned peach preserves coursed through his nostrils and rippled along his psyche. Here was fruit unmitigated. He sank his teeth into the perfect soft flesh and savored the rush of juice that spilled over his lips. In the first swallow he knew he should share this peach with the world but, he reasoned, that was what seeds were for. This peach would be his. And he ate.

The next day Nolan drove several miles into the country to the small orchard of his friend Enrique, an old Spanish speaking farmer. Nolan handed the peach pit to Enrique and told him he must plant it in the best soil in his orchards. He smiled and drove off with no further explanation. Enrique did as his friend suggested. And it was good that he did. Now, people come from all over the united states to see the Fernandez Floating Orchards and to taste the Cheribum Peach, a variety that only grows for Nolan and Enrique in a vale near an old Franciscan abbey.

No comments: