May 20, 2014
The perfume of the river valley is overwhelming, and so are the buffalo gnats. The harsh winter seems to have made the noseeums more aggressive, or perhaps it is my imagination. Just walking from the front door to the garage brings down gnat swarms on my head and legs, the tiny pricks of their nibbles mildly hurtful, majorly annoying. On the Genehouse walk I flay my arms wildly and mash buffalo gnats in my ear canals.
I see two bald eagles early this morning, an adult and a juvenile. The migrating eagles have long since packed their bags: those two are permanent residents. Forty American white pelicans fly along Scotch Jimmy Island in a single, undulating line, staying close to the water. The air is alive with the sounds of baby birds. Crow and the missus have two kids, and they spend a lot of time pecking away at my neighbor Irene’s lawn, for sustenance for the babies.
“The river is wide; I cannot cross over.” Barges sport clothes lines now, and the Brussels ferry is open. I may just have to drive there and ride the ferryboat across the Illinois River, just for the hell of it. Cooking classes have sprung up, teaching students to cook the invasive, leaping carp which knock people out of boats. “If you can’t beat em, eat em.”
And Farmer Orville’s place is a thing of beauty. The raspberry bushes are thick and lush; in less than thirty days, customers will be cutting themselves to ribbons on thorns and filling up bags and boxes. Asparagus is still growing. Bulbs that poke out of the ground will be six inches high by tomorrow morning; you can literally see the stalk growing, a quarter inch an hour. The strawberry plants are flowering and plump green berries abound. “Come get you a preview,” Orville says, “next day or so. I et one this morning.”
The Orville method is to gripe about everything, in this case harvesting tens of pounds of asparagus, but still do it. I have given up volunteering to help him. He says anybody who works for him has to follow his way, and they end up being angry. He gripes about the barn cats lying in the asparagus while he cuts, and he makes stabbing gestures with his pocket knife at the unimpressed felines. Reba the farm dog jumps on him and he tells her he doesn’t love her, and the words only make Reba jump higher, wiggle faster. Two visits ago, he blurted out that he was a Republican, meaning he presumed I was a Democrat. This announcement came out of nowhere, and I didn’t get it then, but now I have context. I was getting the same gesture as the fake stabs at the cats and the insincere words to the dog. Some people say they love by saying it backwards.
I can’t help being reminded of my beloved friend, Mardean Frazer, who died Sunday night. She and Orville are the same kind of Republican, concerned about the environment, caring for others, loving animals, and surrounded by liberal friends, just not liking the Zeitgeist of the modern world. If Senators Cruz and Bachman toured Orville’s farm, they’d deride organic farming as being anti-chemical business and anti-Agra-business, and Orville would shoot them or feed them to the chickens and put them out of their misery.
My allergies are driving me nuts. I stand and listen to the Tao of Orville and cough and wheeze and bend over and get dizzy.
“If you are dyin,” Orville says, “kindly move closer to the compost heap so I won’t have so far to haul your body.”
Oh, to go back to the beginning, to be a strawberry, an asparagus spear, a raspberry or a tomato, to be exclaimed over by ebullient children, to be picked and devoured by spiritually starved people high on Coke and candy and excited about fruit, and be digested and strengthening and excreted and returned to the compost heap. It is a heaven that is attainable.