I've often used this quote in the marketing of my book. Marketing? I actually hate marketing, even though the business scholars insist you can sell hot coffee in Hell with the right approach. That aside, the quote does have a lot of meaning for me personally. See, I have always been an escapist of sorts, one of those people that stations their bed next to an open window. Childhood training of sorts. Danger always wandered in through the door, so the window was always a better choice.
Eventually we do become adults -- well, that's the plan anyway, but we don't discard the child within as a simple matter of chronology or maturity, however one cares to define that transition. It lurks within, seemingly protected and shielded by the wisdom or strength of age. Or perhaps an equality measured in muscle, sinew and bone. But the mind...well, it never forgets the child, for the child was the cognitive foundation of all knowledge to come. The open door to what will constitute another human being, or more accurately the nature of being human.
Farming seemed to hold some appeal for me that was not terribly obvious at first. Dirt, water, air, seasons...the seed: a miracle in itself it would seem. Replication wrapped in wonderment and awe. The flower, a simple and easily understood lesson in the value of patience...even persistence in a process that by all accounts, must cripple logic. Yet, there it is in the spring warmth. Defiant in its coming, humble in its demands. And we look down at this flower, from the great heights of our towering intellect and marvel at it -- privately of course, for we have learned somehow that the only real miracle on Earth is achieved through our singularly unique presence. Hmm.
Farming tends to correct that thinking though, and return us to the world of small marvels. Of course, we pay the price of admission. The work is hard, the hours long, the elements, at times, most unfriendly. The financial return -- not a matter likely to generate great swarms of envy. Ridicule and scorn, the unspoken words of a casual observer, those who have long since lost the ability of appreciation, that gentle dose of awareness that lives on the outskirts of all things chaotic and unsure.
I suppose I failed in some ways at being a farmer, my crop walking the earth instead of being cradled by it, but after two-and-some decades, I realized that the earth under my feet had remained the same --I had done no harm to the ground. The horses merely fed the soil, the rain washed it clean and the winds gently swept away the remnants of each season. And every year we welcomed new life, had our moments of joy and sorrow, and awaited the coming of spring. The gentle coming of a distant horizon. Not so bad, really.
And then there is fall....
Fall. Pictures of the Vermont countryside splashed on the cover of an LL Bean catalog. Hills ablaze in the amber cloak of vanishing youth, wind rustling the tattered edges of an orange and violet kaleidoscope, caught, perhaps trapped, by the passing of an omnipotent God, bent on delivering warmth and renewal to a more deserving hemisphere, one that has sickened from the cold and withered in the twilight of an ambivalent season. The sun feebly threatens warmth for the northern latitudes, but only delivers winter.
Cold beer is shelved in favor of Irish whiskey. Everyone you know wears a turtleneck from Eddie Bauer. Hornets leave their nests to gorge on the fermented nectar of rotting pears, once a fragile flower given a mission to bear future life -- its only mission -- severed from from the root, cast to the cold ground by a branch grown weak by the migration of a planet on a timeless, predetermined path.
Still, this small venomous creature of the same oval prison rejoices. A hated little beast, yellow and black with a painful sting and the arrogance, or perhaps the detachment of a prehistoric shark -- creatures frozen by an evolutionary system that, contrary to human desires, sought and somehow achieved perfection. No, we don't necessarily agree that the final product is one of God's better efforts. After 200,000 years of flexing our gray matter, losing an abundance of body hair and turning in our rocks, clubs and swords for nuclear triggers, we still sit scared and alone -- genetic anomalies that admire the hornet for its undeniable tenacity, yet try to to kill the bastard because it represents what we cannot comprehend, control, or perhaps ever be. It acts, we think. The hornet eats the fermented fruit, flies upside down, attacks the occasional interloper and after two-weeks of drunken fury, dies a sudden, rather unremarkable death. A few guts on the pavement, nothing more.
Death comes in winter, but the illness shows up in the fall. Leaves rot and decay, salmon enter the streams to quickly reproduce, their century's old clock stubborn in its need to meet the next hour. Lifeless bodies, once the great ocean-going Coho, gentle in their passing, are carried headlong into the deep and silent cradle of the Pacific Ocean. Yet the seed, hibernating quietly in a shallow, nameless estuary awaits the warmth of spring, a million-to-one risk that begins with life and culminates in death. And we worry about the price of gas.....
September in Washington is rarely less than an Indian summer. Warm days, creeping toward cold nights and the random storm. The leaves do turn yellow and red, but unlike Vermont, the incessant showers hurl them to the ground where they become a great slippery mass ready for consumption by slugs and snails, those grandstand janitors that show up for dying summers or the last out of the last game of the final series. Walking is treacherous, sweeping endless.
Fall marks the end of many things. Chores become less critical, less practical in the declining weather. The days are shorter and darker, ambition less fired, sights more defined, as if the northerly wind causes the eyes to squint for more than protection -- as if they speak quietly to a distant, vague, unknown, but critically important subtlety. We came, we conquered; the cat tortured and ate another wrong-way pheasant. Feathers. Like leaves falling I guess. We're only cold in the fall if we've lost our protective cover, if we have surrendered to a pending winter storm. In the half-light of early evening you can almost hear the earth repossessing the gifts of life. A band of noisy gravediggers that mark your every step with their distinctive sigh. A private apocalypse in a fog shrouded forest that is both bed and crypt. Grief and renewal. The salmon know.
Okay. People also pass at dusk, as they should. It is their dusk. It is why we sit on the beach and witness the sun surrendering to water and time. It is reassuring in that it offers continuity as a defense against our personal confusion -- sanctuary dismantling intelligence, swallowing our grief and uncertainty in the fond embrace of memory. A rare time to honestly choose the nature of our forgiveness, or to simply cry in peace.
From: Mares, Foals & Ferraris, copyright 2011