In Peach Season

We are eating deviled eggs and Ritz crackers in the shade of Uncle Mit, a thirty-foot tall Arbor Vitae that started out as a sprig of greenery in a funeral wreath fifty years ago. In front of us is the flower garden: Butterfly bushes, zinnias, and six kinds of sunflowers in full bloom. To our right, grape vines, peaches, and pears. It is ninety degrees this afternoon, but there is a good south breeze and little humidity. We are sipping ice water out of a shared jug. From time to time we slip over to the pump to splash our necks and feet with cold water pulled from the well ninety feet below.

Honey bees enjoying our peaches

Every few minutes a white seedling peach falls to the ground with a soft “thump.” Where it hits the ground, it bruises and splits, and a honey bee rushes in for a virgin sip. The fruitfall (pun intended) attracts ground-feeding butterflies too: Red Admirals, Buckeyes, Commas, Question Marks, Hackberry Emperors. Now and then, one of them lands on our sweaty skin. We sit still, their human salt licks.

A friendly Hackberry Emperor

The air is redolent with peaches, that sweet syrupy scent that makes the undersides of our tongues ache. When another peach falls, Keith creeps through the orgy of bees and snatches it up, splitting it open along the seams with his thumbs. Half for him, half for me, and the pit for the flower garden where, like Uncle Mit, it just might sprout, proof years from now of our afternoon in paradise.

Giant Swallowtail

Red-Spotted Purple, Monarch, Painted Lady, Hackberry Emperor

The peach’s skin is thin but prickly, and while we will eat it, we know better than to gather up an armload except when we’re wearing long sleeves, since the peach skin will chafe bare skin like fiberglass. A gust of wind rustles what we thought were dead leaves out of the pear tree. But no, it is a flock of Red-Spotted Purples, their black and steel-blue tops the colors of comic book super heroes’ hair. The Black and Eastern Tiger Swallowtails hang on to the butterfly bushes like rodeo riders in the breeze. A flash of lime green in the catmint turns out to be a Cloudless Sulphur. A flash of yellow and black in the sunflowers turns out not to be a second sighting of the Giant Swallowtail, but a goldfinch, kami-kazying between the rows. Zeroing in on the “peep-peeps” at the end of the bird’s flight pattern, we see that it is trying to corral a tiny brown nestling. The baby can fly about two inches off the ground for about four feet before it totters back to earth.

White seedling peaches

We debate whether to shoo the bees away from the half bushel of peaches we picked earlier in the day. Keith shrugs and hands me the water jug. We sit back in our chairs, never too lazy to defend what’s ours, but too content today to even make a start.

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