Thursday, February 24, 2011


I just want to harvest pecans. All the time. Until it is too dark to distinguish them from the dirt and leaves. And then I can sit in the lit garage and sort them, separating what will go to the sheller from what will serve a different purpose: composting into fertile soil. I do not see a single pecan as waste, not even those still undeveloped and encased in a hard clingy black outer shell. I feel productive. I occasionally pause to savor the meat from a shell that is already cracked. And I feel fortunate. And I do not want that tender richness to lie ungathered. So I pick up another pecan. And another. I don't know how to decide, “Oh—this is where I will stop. I will put this pecan in my bucket but not that one to its left and not that one by my foot. They are fine too, but I am going to walk away now with my full bucket and have some lunch. And I will leave those fine pecans on the ground.” It feels difficult to leave them there, but not painful. I don't feel guilt for my choice. This is perhaps why I want to stay in this field doing this forever—I cannot do damage here. With their unique stripe patterns, the pecans are beautiful. Some of the lighter ones make me think of fragile bird eggs. Gratefully, they are not fragile. (Not like people.) I can do something worthwhile—by carrying the good food from the ground to the table. But I cannot do harm—If I miss a lovely pecan and leave it for the birds, if I mistakenly pile one empty old shell in the bag with all the full healthy pecans, if I step too heavily and crush a nut into bits, I will not cause harm. Moreover, the pecans, their trees, the wind—they are all comfortable with my silence, unoffended by it, unhurt by it, not even the least bit disrupted by my wordlessness. Most places that feel this safe do not offer opportunity for me to give anything at all to the world from my protective cocoon. But this is different. Here I can carry one pecan after another after a thousand from the gentle but unappreciative ground to the table where they will find their way into hungry mouths and delicious pies. Here I can feel safe and still make the world a little better as I go. No wonder harvesting pecans is addictive to my soul.