Tuesday, October 9, 2012


AUTUMN IS A TIME FOR GATHERING, FOR HARVESTING, FOR PUTTING UP STORES TO GET US THROUGH THE LONG NIGHTS OF A LONG, COLD WINTER. After the monstrous drought this summer, there's not much to harvest in my yard—tomatoes accumulate on the vine, but only enough to sprinkle on my salad; the peach trees bloomed early in the premature spring, but then met with a late frost; the walnut tree drops a few nuts one by one, instead of dozens by dozens as it does in most years. I kick 5 or 6 green ones into a little pile to let the husks darken and begin to rot off before I bring them in to crack. Last year I filled bushel baskets and couldn't keep ahead of them. I won't have that problem this year. I keep my eye open for other harvesting options and I found a little feral apple tree over by an abandoned storefront. It wants pruning, but somehow, despite the drought and lack of care, put out a bumper crop of golden apples that are just now starting to fall. I park my car in its shade and pull a canvas shopping bag out and bend to pick up the windfalls.

After the Monstrous Drought
As I come over to the other side, I start. A woman stands silently with her own bag in her hand. “Oh, hello!” I laugh. “I'm glad I'm not the only one who appreciates these apples!” She is friendly, but seems disappointed in the apples. “These are bad apples,” she tells me. Judging from her lovely, colorful clothes and her accent, she is from the Indian subcontinent. I look into my bag. Yes, many are a little wormy and some are bruised from falling off the tree. They seem to be a golden delicious, nicely firm. I tell her that I just pick them up anyway and cut out the bad parts, peeling them and freezing the good parts for pies. We chat a little at our work, and walk away with maybe a half a bushel each. I take my harvest home and that night I sit in the Adirondack chair and peel and core them until it gets dark, then move my production in the house, collecting a big bowl of parings for the chickens.
I stop to watch the flow
of golden kernels..
 But I am not the only one harvesting. Yesterday I came home to find Jim and Sean in the fields, cutting the corn. I didn't have high hopes for the bounty of this year's crop, but I still love to watch the big combine slowly making its way across the field, leaving a wake of cornstubble. The grain truck waits by the road and periodically the combine creeps over to dump its load of corn into the waiting truck. I stop to watch the flow of golden kernels. Dust rises and the pile grows. The air fills with the ringing of grain flowing through the metal tube and dropping into the truck. When the combine is empty, it turns slowly back to cut more corn.

 I stood for a moment and watched. I had laundry to hang and bread to loaf, lessons to plan and papers to grade. I thought about shirking my duties and shedding my cares, running out into the field, waving my hand and chasing down the combine. Whoever was driving would stop and let me climb aboard, sitting up in the glass paneled cabin high above everything. Jim or Sean would kindly listen to my questions about the rhythms of the farmer's year, and entertain with kindly amusement my latest crazy ideas for what to plant in the grass waterway. But this evening, responsibility wins out and I gather my bags and turn to go into the house, thinking that I'll catch them when they harvest the beans.
Harvest Beauty;
Reap Peace;
Blessed Be.

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