Pawpaw hunters

Ripe mulberries and loquats, tumbling plums, fat blackberries, chanterelles and wineberries in the mountains, muscadines falling off the vine. For better or worse because of who we are, our children have grown up within the rhythms of these things. You can’t forage out of season. You can only wait. Aching in the dead of winter for the chanting heat of summer that silently brings the pawpaws to sweet ripe perfection. Sweat dripping from your nose when that suffocating heat finally arrives, and you fondly imagine the crispness of fall and the first taste of persimmon, sweetening in cold night air. These have marked our time, whispering of another trip around the sun. An endless whirling we’ve been invited to have a few glimpses of before we’re gone. 

Wrapping both hands around a pawpaw tree and shaking it with your whole body. Listening for dropping fruit. Hunting carefully in the underbrush, scanning the leaves for palm- sized rounded fruits, and snakes as well. I hope this yearly ritual never leaves my children, stays in their bones even if they grow up and live among the towers of a concrete jungle somewhere. 

I’m watching them run along the river on our pawpaw hunt. Laughter bounces through the forest and gets lost in layer upon layer of green. I’m feeling in a vivid way that they are not mine. It’s hard to remember that sometimes when I’m getting mad at them for trashing their room or sitting on the clean laundry in their wet dirty shorts. They belong to themselves and are on loan to me while they’re so young. They are quietly ripening, even as I wane and prepare a little each day to fall off the tree. Their stories will go on. Did I give them what they needed? Did I tell them I loved them enough? Did I raise my voice too much? Did we shelter them too much, or maybe too little? Will they be ok? There’s a song taught to me by one of my permaculture teachers that goes, “for we’ve always known that we must live for the love of what we may never see…” -Matt

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