Act III

September 18, 2014

And I took off again, me and my stent in my fractured heart, on the Genehouse walk, taking ninety minutes for what normally takes fifty. At the bottom, on the river, were over a hundred American white pelicans gleaming in the warm sun, working and circling as a team, to net fish.

There is no describing a pelican migration, the vast electric white tornado that swirls its way east and south, the small end of the funnel rising and falling over dams and barges and driftwood, like a movie visual of a slow motion dream.

Let the painter tone down the deep green of the forest, fade it, yellow it, wash it out, catch the falling leaves that become sails, wipe away the empty nests. Stripe the roads with woolly caterpillars and etch the globe-shaped webs along the high tree tops and the lime green Osage oranges as they roll downhill.

Cathy and Mike’s roadside stand is filled with green apples and red apples and crisp apples and pie apples and yellow and green squash and gourds and green beans. I resisted the urge to count Farmer Orville’s last green tomatoes, the hundred or so tomatoes ripening and the countdown is on. There will be a last tomato as there was a last strawberry, a last blackberry, a last peach.

Trees are upside down ballerinas shedding their green tunics, the leggy branches sloping into a vee, the torsos having dived into the earth, and the ladies’ heads buried against winter, and the fecund earth breathes lady breath.

And tatted lace of Queen Ann lines the narrow roads and fills the meadows, tinged in goldenrod and persimmon and Indian paintbrush and dogeye sulfur butterflies.

I saw fluttering high above me, and I watched monarch butterflies drift south and west on the wind. Their only food, milkweed, is being exterminated, a prairie plant, a native here long before the plow. The most misused word in our language is weed.

A copperhead was coiled in the deep grass by the bird feeders, unimpressed by the heartsick old man, but the man was thrilled by its beauty. We lived and let live.

I sat on the porch and was joined by my pet mourning dove, perching on my left leg and letting me pet it. It found me the week before my illness and prowls the flower beds and gravel. My hummingbirds flitted from leaf to leaf, watching the God of sugar, reminding him they are here, enjoy them while you can.

This was the stage set for Act III, the music cued: “Try to remember the kind of September

. . .

I played The Boy and I kissed the soft lips of The Girl, and later I was the boy’s Father, and we sang about vegetables, in “The Fantastiks.” And now I am The Grandfather, but there is no song.

Save for crickets and children and fired stars and barge horns and back yard dogs and coyote and fox pups and hawks and falling stones and river waves and ghost singers of the First People

and the night whippoorwills.

 

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