July 29, 2014
I know gluttony is a sin. You try eating a reasonable portion of Farmer Orville’s organic blackberries. I dare you. I’ve been eating four pounds of berries a week for weeks. I’m smarter, sleeker and my hair has grown (looking at reflection in computer screen) . . . no, no hair.
Today, a single blackberry bush yielded a pound of succulence in five minutes. I will take the berries home and soak them, refrigerate them, and then tonight I’ll eat them, two at a time, placing the berries on the tongue and compressing until the berry eyes explode in the Big Mouth Bang.
So it was quick pick, and a sit under the carport, with Orville and Reba the farm dog, who now has her own wading pool next to her hidey hole in the tigerlillys. One of the barn cats climbed in my lap and Reba tried to nuzzle the cat away, and the air was balmy and the sun shone.
Orville (he wore a polo shirt which read “Grandpa: everyday hero”) and I talked about bees, chickens, the poor people of Alton, women, earthworms, Indians, the nutjob fat kid, Kim Jong-un declaring war on the U.S., and biologists—and the soul. I’m a charter heathen; I’m not concerned about the soul, but Orville is.
My friend decries the use of pesticides (“them young farmers use it because real farmin is too dang much work”), mows around clover patches so the bees so have nectar. A teenage kid and his mom came to pick berries and the kid saw the chickens and called hens roosters, and roosters hens, and Orville rolled his eyes. “They got them I-Pads they always lookin at and they’re stupid—no other word for it.”
He donates truckloads of produce to the local crisis center. “How many cucumbers can one man eat?” Women come in groups and pick his cucumbers. I made a dirty joke: “What do they do with them?” “Oh,” Orville said, “they make batches of a drink called cucumber water. At least, that’s their story.” We talked about how native earthworms comprised only 30 percent of worms living in American soil. “We are goin to hell as a species, Gene.”
My next Alton Telegraph piece will be about Cahokia Mounds, specifically about a brilliant amateur archaeologist named Larry Kinsella, who flintknaps uncommonly beautiful replicas of ancient artifacts and works at the Mounds. Kinsella told me that Genehouse is situated on a Mississippian campsite, 1000 years old. Orville pointed to areas of the farm where he had found artifacts, mostly 7000-year-old Hardin barbed points.
“Kim Jong-un is a jackass kid, shootin missiles in the air to scare us. But then—kids; do not get me started.”
I told Orville that a biologist on NPR’s “Science Friday” said that worms don’t think, are blind and simply exist and work. Mammals see and dream; human animals tell stories in dreams and contemplate the universe—the universe is only there because we observe it. Is it a dream?
“What about the soul?” Orville said, eyeing me and trying to make me squirm. “What’s he say about that?”
“He didn’t mention a, uh, soul.”
My friend has been trying to get me to attend church with him and his wife, Quilt Queen. Men in particular, according to the Orville Arguments, need to go to church and temper their concupiscent thoughts and actions. I come from the school of Existentialism; morality has nothing to do with religion and everything to do with ethical behavior. Orville pities me.
“Time for me ta wash my arms. I been messin with the green tomatoes, even though I know somethin in them vines attacks my arms, and I am stupid because I do it anyway, and I am a itchin fool.”
We all are itching fools. Scratching our arms makes us bloody. Scratching our children’s arms, our spouses’ arms, our loved ones’ arms, strangers’ arms will not slake our thirst for violence. Scratching our dreams makes only makes us more and more unhappy.
We itch to build, to grow, to conquer, to satisfy sexual hunger, to eat blackberries, to get high, to see Earth’s God in wildflowers. Our radio telescopes now “see” one hundred million light years from our planet, a mere fraction of the distance to the Big Bang, a glowing place in time “out there.”
On my way to the car, I pointed to an empty bucket. “Here is what growth means,” I said. “The blackberries are houses. Throw the berries into the bucket; they—” “Fill the bucket,” Orville whispered, shaking his head. “We are filling up the planet. Too many people—don’t get me started.”
Reba hugged me, her paws around my waist. Orville saluted. I saw his hand through the ectoplasm of parallel universes, all the other Reba’s and Orville’s and Gene’s parting.
And going home.