Here's a little cherry poem by George Gershwin for Poetry Friday:
Life is just a bowl of cherries --
Don't take it serious,
Life's too mysterious.
You worry so,
But you can't take your dough
When you go, go, go.
So keep repeating "It's the berries."
The strongest oak must fall.
The sweet things in life
To you were just loaned,
So how can you lose
What you've never owned?
Life is just a bowl of cherries,
So live and laugh, aha!
Laugh and love,
Live and laugh,
Laugh and love,
Live and laugh at it all!
When I was almost 7, my family moved from the Seattle area to
the Santa Clara Valley of California, about an hour south of San Francisco. That was
before it became “Silicon Valley,” and it looked like this:
|Old Photo Postcard of Santa Clara Valley’s Cherry Orchards|
It actually did look like that – it’s not just nostalgia playing
tricks with my mind. It was so beautiful, such a generous landscape. Of
course, we moved into a house that was part of a development that was
one of dozens of developments that would eventually wipe out the
orchards and pave over the farmland and replace it with freeways and
suburbs. But my family got there before too much had been destroyed –
1956 – there were still great fields of garlic and artichokes to the
south of us, with cherry orchards surrounding my neighborhood.
Each spring, walking home, we watched the cherries ripen. Wild mustard
plants grew at the base of the trees in late spring, enouraged by farmers because of the nitrogen they provided the soil, and if you wandered
far enough into the orchard, all you could see was mustard blooms and fruit trees, no matter which way you looked.
|Mustard and Cherry Trees in San Jose|
Then, in June, the cherries were ready. I picked them every day on the way home from school – we
all did, everyone who walked past them, and we ate them until we
couldn’t eat any more. I like to think the farmer knew that the school
kids would eat all the cherries from the row of trees nearest the road. We felt
like there was enough for everyone, and then some.
Even a decade later there were still enough orchards in the valley
that high school kids could make their summer money in the canneries.
The heady smell of hot tomatoes and ripe fruit would drift out all
summer from the Contadina and Del Monte canneries in the Bay Area.
Reading Laura Kvasnosky's post last week over at Books Around the Table
, about the weddings of her son
and her daughter, and the lovely poem by Li-Young Lee about peaches, I
started thinking about those cherry trees, and about the Santa Clara Valley. I
thought about orchards and summer, and about happiness and abundance
. Sweet, sweet cherries.
Rainier cherries from east of the mountains have now gone on sale in the local markets, and I have buying a lot
of them. The person selling them usually lets you sample one or two first:
|Rainier Cherries – The Absolute Best Cherries in the World|
They're scrumptious, so you buy some, but only a handful because they cost a lot:
|A Handful of Delicious Cherries|
But before you go home you decide that’s not nearly enough, and you wander back to buy more:
and the next day, when you begin to see the bottom of the bowl, you go back for even more:
|…and a basketful.|
What I’m really trying to do when I buy those cherries and eat them, of course, is to conjure up the delicious abundance I once experienced in the Santa Clara
Valley. No, not just to conjure it up, but to take it into me, cherry by cherry.
Northrop Frye once described the genres of literature according to the seasons
. Fall, according to Frye, is tragedy – fatalism, the hero
pushed towards his fate. Winter is irony and satire – the final
absurdity. Spring is comedy – new beginnings and happy endings. But
summer is romance – the season when belief is in full bloom. Summer is
abundance. No wonder that in the summertime, I want to write something
wholehearted, something unrestrained. Not a sample-cherry story, not a
handful-of-cherries story, not even bowlful-or-basketful-of-cherries story, but an orchardful-of-cherries story. A story that measures up to this:
|Abundance, Summer, Belief, Cherries|
So when it’s cherry season, I think about the Santa Clara Valley. If
I’m in a writer-ish mood, I think of Frye. I strive to write something
authentic, generous, from the heart, full of belief.
If I’m feeling more like a teenager than a writer (that still happens sometimes) I think of George Carlin singing “Cherry…cherry pie…cherry…cherry
pie….” Click here
to listen to Carlin on YouTube. Usually, Carlin is a Winter kind of guy: satirical, ironic. But singing like this he's all Summer, smooth as honey in the sunshine. Less literary, but sweet and openly sensual. Abundant, you might say.
In the spirit of abundance, here are Dean Martin and Gisele MacKenzie
with their own rendition of the Gershwin poem I opened this post with. The song is a little cherry on top of a sundae. Enjoy.
Poetry Friday this week is being hosted by Keri over at Keri Recommends.
Head over there to see what other people have posted.