I’m winding up my third week of an artist’s residency here at the Monastery of St. Gertrude (Benedictine women) in Cottonwood, Idaho.
The sisters have a vegetable garden and a fruit orchard. We have apricot and raspberry preserves, plus stewed cherries, at every meal. The other day they put up 41 gallons of applesauce (from a variety called Yellow Transparent). They have a pantry full of gleaming quart glass jars of pears, peaches, and plums.
The other day whilst wandering the grounds I happened upon another couple of trees, not in the orchard, laden with small, roundish, juicy-looking fruit: on one tree purple-red; on the other golden. Were they Rainier cherries? I wondered. And more to the point, why wasn’t anyone picking them?
Naturally I nabbed a few, bit in and–delicious! A tart undertaste overlain with sweetness. A seed like a cherry, the size of a cherry, and yet not quite the texture nor taste of a cherry.
Back in my room I googled and discovered that this splendid fruit is known as the cherry plum. I rapturously told of my find at dinner and was met by the inhabitants of the monastery with supreme indifference. “Oh those old things? Even the deer won’t eat them and they make a terrible mess. If they get any bigger, we’re going to chop ’em down.”
“But they’re delicious!” Silence. “Does no-one want them?” Silence. “Would anyone mind if I picked some?” “No, go ahead.”
So every day I go out, fill my pockets to bursting with this exotic, scrumptious fruit, and have a feast in my studio. The trees themselves are also beautiful.
All I can think is: What innumerable other treasures do I pass by during the course of my day?