A Coming Fall
The sun is out today casting mottled patterns on the forest floor just outside my window. The tiger swallow tails and the fritillaries still dodge and plunge through the purple phlox seeking nectar and sustenance on this day in late summer. It’s just August and not even well into the month, only the tenth and yet here I am with my nose sniffing the air and my skin jumping out to feel that faint hint of coolness intertwined within a warm waft of imposing air that still smells like July. Yet something woven into this August atmosphere whispers to me a secret that I unquestionably know is the promise of fall and a coming winter. I love summer but as usual I long for what is not here yet, like fall, winter and a distant secluded verdant spring. The fall plants like lettuce, bok choi and daikon radishes in their infancy are in the ground down in the garden struggling in the heat and lack of rain within inches of the quickening water in creek. It might as well be a thousand miles away for all the good it is doing apart from the roots of the tiny plants. Frequently I water the garden in periods of drought but that is not like a good rain no matter what you might think.
Planting the fall garden is one of my favorite exercises of the year. Even better is walking down to the garden in October, November and December and finding edible treasures there for the taking. It is an astonishing experience, like nothing else. What a thrill finding the fruits of your forgotten earlier labors outspread for your lunch or dinner. Parsnips have grown large, succulent and white, underground and unseen since April that will serve as delectable sweet nutty treats in soups and terrines this winter. The potatoes are safely cloistered in baskets beneath the house in the cellar dug a month or more ago sleeping in the arms of darkness in that cool black place. There are brilliant soft quiescent red tomatoes in sealed jars in the basement canned as recently as yesterday waiting. Winter is prepared for in as much as one can do that. Now all I can do it wait for it to get here and hope for another much needed spell of rain.
This summer we have had friends, relatives and acquaintances sicken and some even died. Some expected some unexpected even though it is always a shock when someone passes away whether you expect it or not. There is something innately hopeful, optimistic and human about preparing food for an un-promised, uncertain future that lays out there somewhere in the unimaginable future. It’s a prayer thrown forward into oblivion with a kiss, a hope and a dream.