the one about quince
The One about quince
There were quince at the market and there hadn’t been the last time. The night before, I’d had a dream that all the tulip bulbs I tucked into the dirt outside were blooming. But I woke up to winter, still.
I bought the quince, and put them in a clay bowl on the kitchen table and let them ripen; their candied floral scent perfuming the room. Seeing those happy yellow cherubs piled in the bowl was such a pleasure that I left them too long. Until soft brown patches mottled their flesh. And since that made them look like an oil painting, I left them a little longer. I left them until their structures began to fail, merging into each other, and the smell around the bowl was sickly. “We are the proof that time is passing,” whispered the decaying pile of quince from their bowl on the table.
I am too much a creature of the present to live for a brighter tomorrow. It’s not enough to know it will be spring and wait and wait and wait until it is. I need delights, almost every day, to feel like the person who is me. These quince, all sunny and Rubenesque, are my winter’s delight. All the sweeter for only being found when the world outside feels so bleak.
Rangey-looking squirrels have been gathering near our patio door; willing to ignore the presence of my large hound dog for the possibility of food. Before this moment, I would have told you I hated them, but now their desperation brought me no pleasure. This summer, these very squirrels bullied me quite badly. I tried hard to grow beautiful flowers on my deck and the squirrels broke my heart 100 times over. Digging up and decimating delicate seedlings. Taking promising young pumpkins from the vine and on a tour of the neighbourhood. Biting the heads of a flower so very close to blooming and then leaving it by the door as an unmistakable “Fuck you!” I tried everything to deter them and found myself obsessing over their movements, like I had seen my mother and grandfather do before. The gardener’s curse.
When reading Beatrix Potter books as a child, I naturally sided with Peter Rabbit and his friends. I’d had no thought for Farmer McGregor, his garden, his livelihood, his efforts, his hopes, or dreams. If I ever thought of him, it was only as a buzzkill getting in the way of the animals’ good time. So it was incredibly jarring to catch my reflection in the window, as I bitterly watched the squirrels, and found Farmer McGregor staring back at me. I am he, and they are the Squirrel Nutkins, and for that matter Peter Rabbits, Benjamin Bunnies, Mrs Tiggy-wickles, Jemima Puddle-ducks et al. Unsure of how to proceed with this newfound cognitive dissonance, I lay a neat layer of chicken wire atop my spring-blooming bulbs and decided to take the winter to think on it. I opened the patio door to scare the hungry squirrels away, yet they tentatively moved a little closer. I took in the patchy fullness of their winter coats and their silly little faces and then looked back to the quince in the bowl. I grabbed the least rotten quince and stepped outside while saying “This is a one time thing. Do you understand?” I threw the quince far into the woods behind our house. I wouldn’t have them enjoying their feast on my territory. They shot off after it and I went back inside feeling incredibly generous and maybe a little closer to a sense of peace about the whole business.
The next day i found my charitable offering squat in the middle of the communal driveway, embedded with tire marks from where it had been run over more than once. not enjoyed as a peace offering but thrown back as garbage. there would be no truce. it had been naive to expect gratitude from a creature as truly brutal as the squirrel. I sighed deeply and pitched the roadkill quince and its fellows in the compost bin. then i carefully checked the integrity of my chicken wire and went inside to grab my purse. the bowl on the table was empty now. it was time to buy some more quince.