Heaven is...

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Tree Ripened Santa Rosa Plum Ready for Picking
Heaven is....Life with the wife that is Venus.

Heaven is...Happiness.

Heaven is...Santa Rosa Plum season.

I must admit -- I've been waiting for this. Not a year or two mind you -- but a lifetime. You don't remember the simple joys of life until they are gone forever -- and you wish you could have them back -- just for a moment or two.

But you can't. The simple joys of life are memories of a simpler time. And unless you've cracked the H.G. Wells code for The Time machine, you can't visit them again.

But I'm here to tell you boys and girls -- that you can come close. Close indeed. I've been there. I was there just tonight.

Santa Rosa Plum Tree-Bird Compound
My memories of Heaven are fresh plum season in mid-1970's Modesto -- and a gigantic, towering, fifty foot tall plum tree across the street from 309 Ribier Avenue. I don't know how it got there. It was just "there" by the time I noticed it. And, you could always count on said tree to deliver a wallop of a harvest.

Heaven was climbing ten-to-15 feet up in those fruit laden branches -- finding the most comfortable spot to lean on and enjoying plum after plum after plum until my fingernails and hands were stained a dark purple. I never did find out what kind of plums they were. All I can tell you is that they were delicious -- and they were bountiful.

That plum tree offered up many a weekend meal or after-school snack during fresh fruit season. The neighbors didn't mind much. In fact, they rather welcomed the sight of me high up in that tree. Because -- soon -- with the onset of hotter days -- the thousands of pieces of leftover fruit in that tree would grow soft.

Santa Rosa Plums-4th Year Crop
And then -- PLOP! Plop on the ground they went. Plop on the neighbor's freshly poured concrete driveway they went, irritating a one Olin Johnson. If the plums weren't plopping on Olin's freshly poured concrete driveway -- the birds that raided that plum tree with regularity -- were leaving something else behind.

Plums make you regular -- much to Olin's chagrin as I recall.

I've never forgotten feasting on those tree-ripened plums all those years ago. I've also never had the opportunity to run across another plum tree like that in the 35-plus years since those special days. I was somewhat distressed to see that the plum tree that so offended Olin Johnson and his freshly poured concrete driveway had been cut down during my last visit back to the old neighborhood.

Of course -- Olin was long gone by this time. There wasn't even a stump to serve as a reminder that a magical plum tree rested there. It was a plum tree that just didn't feed Bill Bird -- but entire neighborhood of young boys just like Bill Bird and -- well -- generations of other "birds."

4th Year Crop-Lush With Plums
It's safe to say that I have waited to repeat this moment since Venus and I first planted our Santa Rosa plum tree four years ago in our North Natomas compound. She would come to discover that it would be the first of many such trees -- but the Santa Rosa was the first.

Although my hope is that the Santa Rosa would be similar to the plums I snacked on decades ago on Ribier Avenue, I realized after the first small crop that it wasn't. The tree delivered another small crop during its second year -- and last year's harvest of 30-to-50 plums was enough to warrant this joyous blog posting.

Ripe for the Picking -- and Snacking!
But it still wasn't what I wanted. What I yearned for is a return to the days when I was a 12-year old boy with enough boundless energy to leap into plum trees with a single bound, hang upside down on a sturdy branch, and snack away until my stomach couldn't hold another bite of plum.

I suppose I'm here to tell you in an excited way that I reached that special nirvana tonight. No, I did not climb said tree. Bill Bird is a tad heavier now than he was 35 years ago -- just a tad. And that "boundless" energy that 12-year old boys have vanishes somewhere -- I'm not really sure as to where.

But that didn't stop me from reaching up to feed on a four year old Santa Rosa plum crop until I reached that special fruit "nirvana." It arrives when you've had just enough. You've eaten your fill. You cannot think of eating another. And yet -- when that hunger returns tomorrow or the next day? There is more than enough to meet said desire.

Ultimate Digging Machine Tenderizing Kitten
As I was feeding the Ultimate Digging Machine, Bandi the Mutt, her share of Santa Rosa plums, it struck me. I had indeed had my fill. I had eaten enough to the point where I was actually sharing plums with the dog we brought home from Oregon from last summer.

It was at that point that Nirvana struck. Had I fed plums to Bon-Bon the family mutt in 1970's Modesto? The faithful family dog that helped raise a family of four children, including the youngest? A boy who loved to climb the nearest fruit trees and eat his fill, while tossing scraps to the ground?

For an instant -- just an instant -- I found myself there. The moment I'd waited to repeat for decades came and went with a flash. The smile had I had on my face as I walked back inside was hard to describe, and also brought questions from the wife that is Venus.

And she's still not quite sure why I'm not interested in having dinner tonight.


The Zany Housewife said...

Aha! Now I know what kind of plum tree resides in my backyard. I cannot even recall how many plums I've consumed recently. I even made plum butter. Happiness, for my anyway, is homemade plum butter. I think I had a ridiculously huge smile on my face for a good three days after making it.

p.s. Diggin your blog. And hi from another resident of Sac County.

Bill Bird said...

Thank you Zany! May I call you Zany? I look forward to the day when we can make plum butter, plum jam and other nice things made from Santa Rosa plums. I thought that we might "get there" this year -- until a windstorm knocked about 50-75 plums out of the tree about two weeks before they ripened. It just wasn't to be. Plus, the family luck has been anything but that this year. Our weekends have been rather busy unfortunately. It cuts down on canning time. Thanks for reading!

Laura Bell said...

My Santa Rosa is 9 now & every day we pick up from the ground 50+ plums that have peaked & fallen while we were away. And then we start picking the "just ripe" fruit from the tree. Over a week into harvest and the branches are still hanging low to the ground, heavy with fruit. It's amazing ! So far, we've eaten them straight or in fruit salad, or I've cooked them down to fruit juice for future jelly. But plum butter ! Thanks for the mental kick, Zany - will go look for recipes next.

And Bill, my son Simon (aka "Fruit Boy"), is feeling the bliss of plum season just like you did years ago. Add the blueberries that are winding down & the peaches revving up - well, he has no need for attending church now, he says. Paradise is the back yard in July.

Anna said...

I just finished a deep purple Santa Rosa a few minutes before reading this blog... When I was a kid, our tree produced crazy numbers of plums about 10 feet outside my window. I'd climb out and pick my snacks and it was glorious. The tree lived on a 45 degree slope and received absolutely no care from my black-thumb parents and yet it always loaded its branches with amazing plums. I am jealous of your tree!