My rain barrel has been empty for more than a week—ever since I planted another batch of Hosta and drained my rainwater, dragging the hose around the yard to give the new plants a drink. For two days we’ve been getting a teasing sprinkle that barely wets the roof. I kept hopefully looking deep into the barrel, but the water didn’t even cover the spigot. For the first time since installing the barrel, I’ve had to water my houseplants from the faucet.
Jim and Sean took advantage of the dry weather this week to begin cutting the corn. I came home after dark the other day and didn’t notice that they’d been in the east field. In the morning, I saw the shaved bristle of reddish-gold corn stubble. Half of that plot was cut. I missed seeing the combine’s gentle progress through the field, but they’d finished there by the time I got home. I love seeing the combines sailing across the fields, lumbering over to the grain truck parked at the edge to spill a shower of golden corn. The first time I catch sight of a combine in our fields, I feel like having a party. I can totally understand a good, old-fashioned Harvest Festival. A few years back I begged a ride in the Combine, and it was like a carnival ride. I know those guys work hard, but for me it was so relaxing to ride along, imagining that I was hovering over the dried stalks in a spaceship, flying leisurely back and forth across the field. From the side of the road, the cornfield is thick. A person could disappear from view by walking a few rows in. But from above, each plant is individual. I’d always imagined that a rabbit or chicken, or even a dog in the field would be in danger of being cut down along with the corn, but from above you can see clear to the soil.
I stop my reverie and notice that the room has brightened. I look out the window and see that the rain has stopped. The sun wants to come out, but the sky is still gray in the west. We may get more rain, yet. I go outside and check my rain barrel. Now it is full; the overflow pipe has filled the small pot I keep under it. The wind is gentle, and raindrops shimmer on the trees. Above, the sky is busy. Clouds of many sizes move in different directions in different layers of the heavens, like a cloud expressway. Pockets of blue are revealed here and there. I walk around and survey the yard. The end of summer finds my garden overgrown. I part the weeds and pick a bucket of tomatoes—Roma and miniature yellow plum tomatoes. They are milder than the red ones, and my biggest crop: volunteers from tomatoes I planted three years back. I sigh at the wilted cucumber vines, wishing I’d done a better job of harvesting those before they turned ripe and bitter. Wishing I’d planted more variety in the spring. If I’m not careful, my sighs and wishes will turn into regrets, instead of plans for next time. I think that is what I love about the cycles of the year. Each cycle brings a chance for a fresh start. You begin the next ride on the merry-go-round with a little more experience, having learned a few more lessons, with a chance to apply them next time around.
Mary Lucille Hays lives in Birdland near White Heath. She is interested in the turning of the seasons and fresh starts.