A few days ago, I took my kids to a local peach orchard. It was morning, the humidity was low(er) and Graham needed to crank out some work, so out of the house we went. For a season that has felt so abnormal, the orchard was a solid known. We’ve gone there year after year for peaches in summer and apples in fall. Before we left, I read the new regulations on the website which included no more eating fruit in the orchard (or was that always a rule we chose to overlook?), masks inside the shop and restrooms, and restrictions on large groups. Got it.
When we arrived, I breathed in deeply. The view of the Blue Ridge Mountains is breathtaking from this vista. Nature reminds us that though the world may be in chaos, there is still order in a breaking dawn, a flowering tree, a honeybee gathering nectar. And a mountain that reflects the blue sky above.
Just before the apple barn, we saw the sign: “Sorry. No picking today.” My shoulders slumped. The kids groaned. Winnie, who of course didn’t understand—did any of us?—began to cry. Maybe it had been a busy weekend in the orchard and they were giving the peaches a few more days to ripen. Or maybe Monday is always a day of no picking and we just didn’t know. I pulled out my wallet, dug out a ten and a few singles, and told Maddox to go buy her siblings some ice cream That, after all, was still open for business.
While the kids waited in line, I purchased a half peck of yellow peaches and plums and a quart of green apples. Back at the car, Henry said, “Look on the bright side, at least we got peaches.”
Yeah, about that bright side.
We’ve been trying to see things on the bright side for months now. The gifts of being able to wake later, become more aware of the change of seasons and animal life around our homes, get to know our children again, have the opportunity to slow down our harried schedules, and reimagine what our lives can look like post-pandemic (for those of us privileged enough to have a choice).
I know there is a bright side. I just don’t want to keep searching for it every day.
As we drove away, another simple pleasure—walking between rows of a sweet smelling orchard, peach juice dribbling on our shirts—deprived from us, I told the kids it was okay to not look on the bright side all the time. Some days, things stink and it’s okay to say so. Out loud. Because those who love you will listen and agree and even mourn with you.
These losses, though small, compound. And if there is a bright side, that means there must be dark corners as well. And it’s okay to sit in them for a while, counting losses like points in a card game. Because we’re all coming up a little short these days. And I want to be honest about the world, and make sure my children know there are many lenses, not just the rosy ones, for which they can choose to peer through.
We’ll find those bright spots again soon enough. We probably already have.
As for my crew that day, we learned that the hiking trails on the bottom of the mountain were still open. So we set off, scoping out tadpoles in the pond, raspberries hanging from trailside brush, and butterflies in a secluded field. Then Winnie peed her pants so we left.
We’ll get back to the bright side another day.