I tug the paper-thin blanket snuggly around me, inhaling dawn’s air, as crisp and brilliant as the orange carrots, as the fresh and green leafy spinach received yesterday from my CSA. Though the calendar reads August, if I didn’t know better, I’d say it was autumn already. In Colorado fall starts teasing us more and more, regardless of what the date is.
Last weekend, traversing Independence Pass which tops out at 12,096 feet, quaking aspens, wearing an array of summer greenness, quivered their aha in gold and lemon shades, now and then, here and there. One maple tree jauntily showed off its coat of orange and red, while magenta elephant-heads and pink monkeyflowers began their fading act.
On the other side of the pass, bears, driven from the high mountains by the long summer drought, forage among trashcans and invade the local Saturday farmer’s market in the alpine village. In less than twenty-four hours, my husband and I spot three shaggy bear cubs. One honey-colored cub climbed the hill up from the shallow creek, pushing over bicycles as he nibbled berries while dripping dry along the sidewalk. Another, as dark as coal, sniffed his way along a walking path, while the third one nonchalantly walked up sturdy steps onto a front porch, looking for something to munch on. A 450 pound bear ambled along main street, careened through the farmer’s market then scooted up an ancient blue spruce. He languished there on his newfound perch for hours, looking down at lookers who were looking up at him, cordoned off safely by watchful forest rangers and local police. This time of year, bears are on the go and they go most anywhere they like, filling their belly with late summer and early fall offerings to ready themselves for the long hibernation winter will bring. What they can’t find on the mountainside, they’ll rummage around for in valley dumpsters. They are, to say the least, indiscriminate eaters.
Unlike the bears, I can discriminate what I will eat, though, admittedly, at times, when as hungry as a bear, I often grab the first thing at hand. One long choice that’s led to healthier small choices was one we made back in the spring: to buy a small share of veggies and fruit from one of the many CSAs, community-supported agriculture. Each week is like a surprise party as I open the purple bin and peer in. What is the gift of the day? What will we eat this week as we work our way through the bin’s beauty and bounty? As the seasons change from spring to summer then on towards autumn, the weekly offerings change, bringing new colors, flavors, and textures to our table.
We are late in our growing season here in Colorado, but finally the first of the heirloom tomatoes arrived yesterday. Just to look at them is to enter the geography of gratitude. A taste of their vivid juiciness is an alleluia to my mouth. A plethora of pleasure is promised by the pretty plump peaches that vie with succulent plums for sweetness. Carrots, collards, corn, eggplant, kale, lettuce, peppers, zucchini, and spinach join the tomatoes, inviting a rainbow of palate pleasures for our late summer meals. I salivate imagining the tangy tastes in store for the week ahead.
Soon the choices will change again, bringing forth more of the root vegetables to savor. For now, I’ll enjoy the crisp brilliant mornings and these last warm summer days, while I enter savoring savoriness, here among the late produce of summer. I’m thankful for the farmer who tilled the soil and the farm workers who planted seeds then weeded around the tender plants as they grew. I admire their determination and intentionality in producing organic vegetables, which require creativity and wisdom to grow. I am grateful for the rains that have lately softened the drought in the valley and for the sun, which has brought the light and warmth necessary for each vegetable harvested. Washing the dirt off the vegetables, I am reminded of the goodness God declared as He created each day and each delight. It’s the little things that keep me full of wonder. The fuzz of Colorado peaches always amazes me. Who would have imagined here, in a high desert state, that on the far side of these Rocky Mountain ranges, closer to the western border, there is a valley full of fruit? So far this year apricots, cherries, peaches and plums from those western orchards have satisfied my sweet tooth.
The morning chill tempts me to snuggle beneath my covers a bit longer. But there is a greater temptation awaiting me. Fresh peaches mound high in a pottery bowl on my kitchen counter. I’m hungry, like a bear, and mighty thankful that I don’t have to forage for my breakfast. I just have to choose to exchange the blanket for a fleece jacket and run down the stairs to wonders that await me.
What about you? What summer fruits and vegetables are you savoring with gratitude?
Lane M. Arnold