October 28, 2016
Farmer Orville and I cut down half of my redbud tree this afternoon. The tree, which had bloomed so lushly last spring, had its trunk split in half in a storm. The south half listed down until it was strangling a flowering bush next to it. We labored for two hours, loading the wood into Orville’s pickup truck and setting it afire on his burn site.
It was seventy degrees, tee shirt weather, and a pair of Cooper’s hawks circled overhead. Ruby Puppy and Reba chased each other around the fields and performed mock battles, locking their jaws on each other’s snouts. All the walnuts were down, and crows and shrieking blue jays retrieved them, tossing the shells to the ground, splitting them open for a nut feast.
We talked baseball – I talked baseball; Orville does not like sports – and I invited him to Genehouse to watch the Cubs in the World Series, but he declined. He watches home decorating shows of an evening, topped off with Fox News. We kept stopping our work and taking in the day, the sky a pale, watercolor blue and a south breeze sharing tropical breath uninfluenced by mouthwash: raw and earthy and fruity.
Dog-eye sulfur butterflies flew low against the brown grass, their spotted wings pale yellow now, and there was the odd monarch, wings torn, which probably wouldn’t make it south. Honeybees flowed in and out of the hive in the north pasture, checking us out for sweet spots, an unlikely find on men such as us, but bees are optimistic. The orange brother and sister barn cats lay near the brush fire, legs splayed, fur soaking up heat, the felines perhaps worshiping a deity.
Living things in autumn linger, like the season is a luscious pie, and the last piece rests on the plate, and we glance at it, smell it, stick out our tongues and imagine it, lust for it. Autumn is one last bite of a fruit pie before we hibernate.
They’re throwing snowballs at Pinkham Notch in New Hampshire, those hardy, crazy souls that wax poetic about cold and ice and how it builds character. They’re throwing sweet gum balls here, and oak leaves, and acorns, and they’re rolling in a fairy dust of goldenrod.
This is the time of year when men think about warm and sturdy mates whose bodies will heat their nether regions come the cold. Mind, Orville has a warm and sturdy mate, Quilt Queen, but he dreams. I mentioned this, and my wise friend opined that Trump has ruined it for men, that all the women we know are now looking at us suspiciously – they know what we are thinking. And they’re right.
But I still have a tree frog humping my front porch light at night. Small moths dust the storm door window with patterned lace. The last of the mosquitoes wait for the opportunity to enter the house and draw blood for last call. At night, the storage shed beside the house creaks and bangs and issues that sickening metallic scrape of claws as critters settle in to their rustic hotel. And Scout the cat settles in at the top of the basement stairs and waits for mice.
But tonight, there is baseball. The streets around Wrigley Field were jammed with people by noontime. Tonight, an old man wearing a Cubs cap – I met him at Joe K’s at lunchtime; he grew up on Pulaski Street in Chicago – will settle in with his family and root, root, root for the home team, which has let him down since 1940.
The World Series, you see, is that last bite of pie. The Chicago Cubs are rhubarb pie, and those pretenders from Cleveland are raisin, that pie that languishes in restaurants because nobody likes raisin pie. And yes, I’ll say it: Hillary is canned peach and Trump is mock apple.
But all of us, even politician apostates from hell, love autumn. It is rare and short, sweeter than any berry, its song is falling leaves and echoes of universe, its cloth is spun from caterpillar and spider silk, and its brand is fire in the brain.