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Embracing the Poetry of Fruit Picking and Other Ordinary Summer Things

On her tiptoes, she reaches high above her head and grasps onto a branch heavy with mulberries. Pulling down the tree limb, my mother-in-law picks off a handful of the fruit and reaches her arm behind herself to offer them to us, her eyes staying fixated on the tree. She searches for more ripe berries before moving on to the neighboring apricot tree.

“Are you sure this is okay?” I whisper, peeking into the yard to check for residents before popping a mulberry into my mouth. The juice leaves behind a dark purple stain on my fingertips and lips.

My husband swears to me this is a perfectly ordinary thing to do in Turkey – picking the fruit off the trees that drape over the stone walls of a stranger’s home. He splits an apricot in half and offers it to me. I stealthily pop it into my mouth.

Down the street, a group of village ladies turns the corner, chattering among themselves and dressed in classic Turkish granny attire: floral patterned baggy pants connected at the ankles, contrasting floral headscarves knotted under their chins, crocheted too-hot-for-summer-weather vests, and wooden walking canes. Armed with plastic bags, they pause on the road in front of a house and begin plucking grape leaves entwined around a metal arbor gate.

Following my gaze towards the women, my husband raises his eyebrows at me and gives me a knowing smile, a vindication of our participation in illicit fruit picking.  See? I told you.

Summer in Turkey opens its arms to a more meditative approach to the ordinary stuff of life. It invites us to pay fierce attention to everyday tasks: hanging dripping laundry on the clothesline, meeting family and friends for picnics by the river, the cool breeze whispering through the olive branches, and, of course, picking fresh fruit off of trees.

God oftentimes seems loudest in the summer season, when the world around us is bursting into life. We see the wild generosity of our Father as he splashes across the canvas vibrant emerald green, coral, turmeric, and sky blue.

But sometimes the shock of a screaming summer can be overwhelming. What if it’s hard to find joy in the summer? What if God speaks but it’s not the words we’re wanting to hear?

Beginning with our decision to move homes last November, my husband and I have felt God placing a different call in our hearts: Be here. Live here. Forget the timeline. Trust me here. 

Shifting our mindset from the short term – suitcases just an arm’s length away, eating off rented dishware, and one foot out of Turkey, ready to leave at a moments notice – to the long-term – moving homes, potting flowers, investing in furniture, planting our feet on the ground – is hard.

When all we want to do is to just get out of Turkey, when all our prayers are shouting, “How long more?”, God is asking us to embrace this season.

So we do, begrudgingly.

Shoulders slack. Feet dragging.

It turns out, faith doesn’t always come easily in the summer season.

With the refugee numbers predicted to be set at zero and my husband’s case changing from “processing” to “suspended”, we’re stumbling out of the loss and surrender winter brought, our eyes squinting into the blazing Turkish sun. We’re still holding the heavy silence of the colder months, the cycle of letting go and waiting, letting go and waiting. The summer is too hot and too loud.

Be here. Live here. Forget the timeline. Trust me here. 

This is a season to yield to summer’s embrace, to wrap our arms around the frenzied kindness and grace of God.

So we find the poetry in picking fruit, in hanging laundry, in learning how to make Turkish coffee from the downstairs neighbors, in the smell of the wet grass by the river, in the chopping up of vegetables fresh from the garden, in getting a Turkish driver’s license, and planning to start a family.

Maybe stillness and simplicity is God’s voice to us. Maybe his scent is the ordinary things of life: the sharp crunch of fresh dill, charcoal from chicken cooking on a mangal, cigarettes and black tea from the Turkish grandpas gathered outside the tea shops. Maybe God’s inviting us to slow down, seek him, embrace, surrender.

I don’t know when we’ll leave Turkey. I trust God has a plan. I hold fast to that. It’s a simple dream I constantly nurse in the palm of my hands. It’s still the heartbeat of my prayers.

But it’s summer. The sun blazes in cloudless skies. The magpies sing outside my bedroom window. The sunflowers in my neighbor’s yard raise their faces to the heavens. There’s fruit to pick and fingers to stain.

I gather the apricots hanging off the tree into my motorbike helmet, filling it to the top with the little yellow fruit. The village ladies have moved on, their plastic bags bursting with grape leaves, ready to make fresh dolma. My husband throws into his mouth one more mulberry and we walk back home. For dessert later that night, we enjoy sweet apricot crisp.

Be here. Live here. Forget the timeline. Trust me here. 

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