Sunday, September 25, 2011


TWICE THIS WEEK I'VE AWAKENED TO A COMFORTING FOG. The grey blanket muffles the landscape, and we can't see past the clothesline. It feels like the world has disappeared, leaving only domestic concerns. The shroud lends an intimacy to the yard, and tiny droplets of water hang in the air and hit me with their coolness as I walk out to the aviary to carry food to the chickens. I know this fog will burn off in a few hours, but I enjoy how it softens the landscape and brings everything closer, shrinking my world. I feel protected.

The illusion won't last and by the time I drive to town for work the fog has lifted, but caught in the roadside weeds I see thousands of spiderwebs, floating discs hanging from sprays of goldenrod and seed heads of grasses. The spiral patterns are made visible by the dew beading each thread. They sway gently in the wind, and I remind myself to keep my eyes on the road, but I am mesmerized and continue to steal glances at the bejeweled garden as it slides by.
 I get to town a little later than usual, and have to drive further from campus to find parking. That's okay. I discover a new route through a neighborhood thick with hostas under the shade of elderly trees. I find a yard that is all garden, bordered by roses with beds of vegetables in the center: tomatoes and chard and cucumber frames and raspberry canes. It has a cheery sign that says: EAT YOUR YARD! I decide that this gardener is my hero. I pass another yard that is really an orchard; pears and apples litter the sidewalk, and I hope the owner won't mind that I picked up two apples, one yellow and one red, for my lunch today. Plenty remain on the trees, and even on the sidewalk. They were both bruised from their fall, but delicious. Tart, and full of sunshine. Maybe one morning I'll knock on the door and ask permission to collect the windfalls for apple butter.

And then I remember that the recent passing of the Equinox means more than sweaters and early sunsets. It begins the fall harvest, and walnuts drop from the trees and roll around in the yards in various stages: some round and bright yellow, like rough tennis balls; some ripening to a deep brown and black, the hulls flaking away; some already peeled down to the wrinkled wood, and suddenly I know what I'll do when I get home. The young walnut in my yard is dropping its own harvest. I'll gather those nuts and sit out at the picnic table peeling the hulls and dying my fingers a deep, oily brown. Last fall I bought a nutcracker sturdy enough for walnuts, and gathering nuts is a satisfying job for a crisp fall day. The strain of the lever; the sharp crack of the nut, like a shot; a dishtowel to catch flying shards; the careful picking of the nutmeats; the growing hoard in a cobalt blue bowl.

The nutcracker looks like a medieval torture device, with a long lever, springs, and gears. The rhythm and squeak of the machine will mingle with the call of birds and frogs, the satisfying murmur of chickens scratching, the rustle of leaves. The shells of walnuts will join the mulch under my picnic table. I think about making pesto and chopping nuts for scones and cookies, maybe enough for a nut pie! I walk a little faster under the Autumn sky.
By afternoon, the fog is just a memory and I have shed my sweater. I open the window in my office to welcome the cool breeze that filters through the hackberry tree outside. I have work to do: papers to grade, classes to teach, students to guide, but my mind wanders to the jars of walnut meats I will put up for my winter baking.

Gather Beauty; Harvest Peace; Blessed Be.


  1. Once again beautiful. This Equinox I was reminded that exactly 6 months ago we were blessed to share the spring equinox together here in the the Yucatan in the inspiring setting of Mayapan.
    Enjoy your walnuts; I think it's time for us to eat those few we have left from our last fall in the States (we have been hording them but that probably is not a good idea).
    Hope to hear from you soon!

  2. Thanks Heidi! That lovely visit seems both very recent and too long ago. We do need to schedule another chat soon. <3