What California doesn’t have in seasons, it makes up for in seasonal produce. For as long as I can remember, my seasons have been defined by the fruits or vegetables available to us at the time. Summer was for strawberries and Autumn was for apples. Now, living in San Francisco and buying my produce mostly from local markets, I am exposed to a broader variety of produce, and much more aware of seasonal availability. From springtime apricots to wintertime persimmons, I know what to expect when. By the middle of each season, its respective produce has made itself abundantly present in my diet—a staple. It is a beautiful thing, eating seasonally, enjoying the richest of colors and purest of tastes.
The problem, however, is that seasons don’t last forever.
This year’s was a particularly delicious fig season. One weekend in mid-September, I went to my usual market to stock up on my week’s worth of figs (and other produce). “This is it,” the owner told me as he rang up my items. “What do you mean?” I asked, hoping that he didn’t mean what I thought he meant. “The fig season. I think this is the last shipment I’ll get.” “Really?” I asked with slight disbelief. It had flown by so quickly. “Should I get another basket?” He didn’t say no, and so I did.
For the next week, I made the most of my figs — roasted with cauliflower, spread on toast, cut up in yogurt, and just on their own. Savoring every bite of every fig, I tried to memorize their taste and how I felt eating them. “This is it,” I told myself, “Not again for another year.” And so when I was down to my last sole fig, I was ready to say goodbye. I knew the moment had come.
A few weeks passed, and I began to let other produce into my life, like butternut squash, pomegranate, and sweet potatoes.
Then, one Sunday, I went to a co-op with a friend on our walk home from a coffee shop. As she picked up her produce for the week, I mulled around eyeing the greens and nuts in front of me when someone bumped into me from behind. I turned, and there I was, face to face with heaps and piles of figs. Black Mission, Sierra, and Brown Turkey. I gasped as if I had seen a ghost (the ghost of fig season’s past). Now, it was my turn to accidentally bump someone as I excitedly grabbed a bag and filled it with figs. Like an addict, I had no restraint.
My friend and I parted ways and I walked as quickly as I could back to my apartment, the entire time salivating at the thought of these plump, juicy fruits touching my taste buds. Once in the kitchen, I ceremoniously opened my bag and selected a fig. I pinched it for luck and took a generous bite.
I chewed once and stopped.
It was dry. And straw-like. Sweetness was foreign. I spat it out and stared at my full bag. I tested two more straw-like figs before disposing of the entire bag. Call it ambition, greed, or plain foolishness, I had pushed my luck.
Clouding my memory of the dynamic season is its flat finish.
While we’ve all experienced the woes of “too much of a good thing,” and been advised to “stop while you’re ahead,” the concept, in reality, is rather difficult to master. It requires a jedi-like discipline to stop at the height of it all. A pathetic sadism to deny oneself continued happiness. Without context, it is self-destruction at its best.
The thing about life is that our comfort is set by just a hint of repetition. Be it for something as simple as produce or something as profound as a career or relationship. We build routines around these comforts and we expect them to remain forever fruitful. And whether we recognize them or not, we ignore all indications of natural endings because these comforts make us happy. Or well, they made us happy, once. We pinch and we squeeze for every last bit of what they have to offer until one fine day we realize that they not only don’t make us happy, but they actually make us unhappy. This, in fact, is self-destructive. That which could have ended amicably before instead rots and crumbles helplessly.
Impossible as it may seem, there’s something to be said for taking certain aspects of our lives in seasons. While, like Seattle rains or London fog, some parts are meant to be forever, we should allow that which must end to end. Done in the right way, these endings will be bittersweet, and they will be preferable to those which are only bitter. And know that when you summon the courage to do so, a new season awaits you, with all the ripe sweetness you deserve.