A fifth-grade bully, a blossoming romance, a late-night crash
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Autumn comes, summer ends . . . so quickly. The fire is momentarily resurrected in dazzling fall days, brilliant changing falling leaves. I compete with birds and squirrels for the bounty of fruit, nuts, berries. Too delicate for scorching summer, good-eating greens form carpets everywhere. This season, between fire and ice, is a delightful respite.
I walk to the woodpile with axe, sledge, wedges and a large saw. I meditate pleasant hours away, sawing sawing sawing, chopping splitting, chopping splitting. I enjoy the strength of my muscles, my aroma, my competency. I enjoy doing simple essential chores. Three hundred saw strokes and a ten-inch piece of white oak falls. I sometimes cry when I smell that rich sour brown core; an unfathomable memory is hidden in the wood grain. I place the piece on a larger cutting block, line my axe carefully, inhale, lift, KAPOW! Sometimes it splits; sometimes I pull the axe out, and gently tap a five-pound wedge into the cut with the eight-pound sledge. So hard and strong this steel. Frequently many powerful hits are necessary for a stubborn knot to surrender to the unyielding metal.
My fall garden is prolific with lacey carrots (now delicious orange fingerlings), sharp mustard greens, trumpeting swiss chard, curly lettuces, aqua kale, tiny turnips and beets, rows of onions and garlic swords. The parsley has kindly reseeded itself, hot radishes are nibble sized, tall hairy artichokes are falling over, waiting for me to dig up their smokey flavored tubers. A few beans, tomatoes and peppers hang on (I suspect not for long). Oh Garden, you feed me such delicious joy.
I walk the railroad tracks with a bag over one shoulder and a small shovel in my hand. I’ve harvested sassafras from this area for three years. A few orange leaves are left; but the shiny green branches are easy to identify. I pick carefully, pulling and digging these wonderfully aromatic roots. I try to listen to their song, leaving plenty behind to fill the empty spaces. The bag is heavy with an amazing variety of root shapes, my hands are thick with soil and sap. I am intoxicated from the smells.
HEYYAA . . . HEYYAA . . . HEYYAA . . . HEYAAAAAAA. I shout.
The red-gold light of the setting sun alchemizes everything it touches.
The sky is layered with long sheets of stratus clouds. Puffy cumulous float above. A mostly full moon, visible, is already higher than the forest trees. Birds salute the end of day with a last cacophonic symphony. Twilight winds blow away the remaining warmth.
I hug knees to chest, feeling my awesome aloneness. I wonder where I’ll go when I leave here. I remember places and people that I’ve gone home to. I turn my face to the wind and look into the shadows. I close my eyes for several minutes. I awake and get up. Shaking myself, I start walking to the car. The moon faintly glows through the clouds.
Back home, I cook vegetables and rice. Someone knocks on the front door and walks in. A woman friend inviting me to supper. We talk, eat, talk, hug and kiss, and she leaves. I sit by the warm fire, drinking red sassafras tea, and writing.
Today, Life, you and I are so wonderfully simple. I thank you.