Sometimes you think you really know a plant, know a season, and then you discover that maybe you’ve been mistaken. Maybe you don’t really know strawberries, or September at all. Maybe there are a whole lot of things you don’t know.
One early fall evening that still feels like summer, almost, you’ll think about how all of the seasons pass too quickly for you, now. You’ll think about how, at the end of each one for the past few years, you realize that it’s ending and wish you’d done more, somehow, to hold onto it. To relish it. To savor it. And so, instead of doing the dishes or paying the bills right after dinner, you’ll head out the front door with your garden clippers to cut a bouquet of roses–knowing that, too soon, their blooms will cease and the yard after dinner will be dark and windy.
That is when, poking around your strawberry plants to get a closer look at the first reddening of their leaves, which reminds you of Gerard Manley Hopkins and his Margaret and her grieving, you’ll see it–the fruit you never expected to harvest now: strawberries.
This will make you catch your breath just a little, making it more of a “Windhover” moment than a Margaret one, because for you, strawberries are June. They are summer. They are warm and sweet as the anticipation of long days and hot blooms and languid afternoons. These berries? Here? Now? They are as wondrous and doomed as Hopkins’s birds. You don’t know what to make of them. Are they some sign from the universe or your Muse, a metaphor sent for you to discover? A weird gift courtesy of climate change? Some kind of Monsantoesque mutation? Should you eat them, or should you leave them alone?
You don’t know.
You decide you don’t need to make anything of them.
You decide that all you need to do is appreciate them. You’ve lived enough to know that not everything has to mean. Some things should just get to be. The roses under your window that keep blooming and blooming and blooming. The strawberries you couldn’t have predicted or expected. You, savoring the early autumn of your life.