September 30, 2014
Farmer Orville and I helped our friends Mike and Cathy break down their produce stand and carry the pieces to a trailer. I smashed the middle finger of my left hand between two boards, so I can only properly give the finger with my right hand.
Loading up a produce stand for the winter is like being at a wake. Two weeks ago, there were cases of cantaloupe and squash and green beans and tomatoes and multicolored peppers and cucumbers. I will miss the bounty. And I will not eat a tomato from California, its texture like a tennis ball, its pale fruit flavorless.
Still, this morning my neighbor Irene brought me a bowlful of fresh picked lettuce, and Orville gave me a sack of tomatoes, and Reba the farm dog gave me a lick. Still, dog-eye sulfur butterflies, beautiful pale yellow and spotted against predators, fly and rest on the ground in yellow puddles. Still, ruby-throated hummingbirds feed below my window, and nuthatches run upside down along the maple tree and pileated woodpeckers hammer holes and red-shouldered hawks soar down the bluff fall.
The leaves are just beginning to turn to their true colors. The forest is turning gold, and the fields are pale gold, and the low sun is golden. The local roads ripple with wooly caterpillars, and turtles are on the move to winter dens and timber rattlesnakes are returning to their caves in the bluffs. Stroke Hill is littered with Osage oranges, fat and green and bane to spiders and loved by squirrels.
Speaking of which, No-Tail the Squirrel has grown a new tail. He showed up in tailless my yard last December. Some predator had grabbed him and came away with a fur stole. And No-Tail adapted, learning how to balance in the crooks of trees so he could sit up. Yesterday, he walked by me and I didn’t recognize him—until I noticed an odd tail, attached by a straw-shaped lump of naked flesh that resembled a pipe cleaner, then fluffing out into a splendid grey muff. Size does matter, and no tail is bad tail. I shall continue to call him No-Tail because I don’t know his real name. He knows me as the God of Nuts.
My resume lists God of Nectar, God of Nuts, God of Seed, God of Watermelon and God of Stale Bread, and sometimes God of Water. The animals haven’t yet been philosophically poisoned by Christian missionaries.
This gold, this heat, this low light, this placid river: these I hold on to. Come the last hummingbird, I will be lonely. Come the last tomato, I will bawl like a Girl Scout whose cookies got stolen.
Raise high, the middle fingers of your right hands, to winter.