326. Falling

Fall’s muddy footprint is pressing into the wet, gray landscape of my soul, and I don’t like it one bit. I am one of the foolish melancholics who complains about the weather. It’s fruitless, blogglers, but I still do it. Unproductive is what I mean. After all, it’s not as if I can put the weather on a performance improvement plan. Just gotta suck it up, Buttercup. Ironically I have four different fruit trees in my back yard that produce no good fruit. Still I keep them for shade and the amusement of critters. Not a single peach on the peach tree. One apple, One! on the entire apple tree. The pear was branch-breaking pregnant with fruit that was insect ridden. The semisweet cherry actually did produce a nice crop this year, but we weren’t interested in picking much. Pie cherries wind up in the bottom of the freezer years later, mistaken as freezer burned hamburger. Most years the birds devour all the cherries anyway. So, overall, after adjusting for exaggeration, it was a nearly fruitless summer. Though you can influence fruit productivity, you can’t make trees produce. There are just too many variables– frost, drought, bees, wind, other bugs, blight, fungi– and I’m not an orchardist with a sprayer. I’m just a guy with a blow dryer and hair gel. No extension cord. You just wait and see what you get; that is also life’s prescription.

Perhaps this attitude speaks of luxury and ingratitude. I remember when my wife and I were new parents and collected fallen fruit off the ground on our walks around Scotland School, tucking pears and apples into the baby buggy next to our first born child thirty four years ago. We humbly ate those pears and apples all winter long, stretching food dollars as far as we could, never imagining the day when we’d have all our material needs met and paid for. Which is where we are today. Zucchinis, goose necked, butternut, and acorn squash are piled in a corner downstairs. No hurry to consume them. We give more away than we eat. Our grapes did well this year and the red raspberries are finally catching on. No waste there, but I suspect this had more to do with timing than good stewardship. Heck, I rototilled our strawberries plants just to clean them up. The fruitfulness of our garden is almost an after thought these days. Mice and insects eat more of our strawberries than we get to.

Those thin, meager days of the depressed 1980’s were pretty bleak. We were the mice then, scavenging for sustenance. Scraping by. No need to worry about exercising then. We had to walk up two flights of stairs to our two bedroom apartment above the stream with a baby and groceries, and then back down to do laundry in the basement. It was a pleasant place to start a family, though my heart weeps a bit when I think of how naïve we were, how isolated.   Our sheltie collie CoCo used to chase ducks and run  on his hind legs on our porch, tap dancing with excitement. One tragic day he tapped right off the deck and fell 22 feet onto the concrete pad below. Fortunately for him he only blew out his hip socket and lived a couple more years without any disability. We were bad dog parents, admittedly. We were slightly better with our human charges.

Our house was situated right at the dam. Its drone was a dull roar in the soundscape. Some nights in April we’d see fisherman along the banks of the stream with lanterns, determined to seduce those fresh trout into a frying pan. It was a rather odd experience to have your yard invaded overnight by strange men in hip waders exercising their waterway rights. “Hey, Buddy, that palomino trout has my name on him.” I suppose the original Indians felt the same way about Western territorialism, but they are all gone. Maybe, just maybe their spirits live on in those ghost fish. Those trout were generously stocked in our back yard stream by men in a big tanker truck filled with water and fish. I fished with corn and hope, never caught a thing. I once considered shocking the stream just to get my hands on one of those elusive trout, and I don’t even eat fish. So why fish anyway? Maybe it was about proving my manhood adequacy quotient. Probably the same reason I shoot groundhogs nowadays. Dunno, Mate. Seems so silly now, don’t it?

Something about damp chilly fall days that gets my melancholy going. It’s just the opposite when spring’s warm wet days arrive with a trillion promises. Fall feels final. The spigot of sunlit glory gets shut off,  not deadly but prophetic of the sunless cold to come. So Neil Young songs come to me unbidden..

“Birds”

Lover,
there will be another one
Who’ll hover
over you beneath the sun
Tomorrow
see the things
that never come
Today
When you see me
Fly away without you
Shadow on the things you know
Feathers fall around you
And show you the way to go
It’s over, it’s over.
Nestled in your wings my little one
This special
morning brings another sun
Tomorrow
see the things
that never come
Today
When you see me
Fly away without you
Shadow on the things you know
Feathers fall around you
And show you the way to go
It’s over, it’s over.”
You can always count on Neil Young to take you to a foggy Canadian wasteland and abandon you there as wolves and bears pick up your hopeless scent. Thanks, Neil. I think after my funeral I’ll just plug in Neil’s greatest hits for background music at the buffet reception. Even if the attendees don’t like me, they will be sad, melancholy or morose. If you are there, blogmourner, try to put fruitful in a reference to my life. I’d really appreciate that, Mate.
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253. Glomorous

“California Dreaming” comes to mind this morning as a cold gray rain drizzles relentlessly on the scattered layers of trampled maple leaves.  Creamy yellows, rusty reds, and shades of orange lose all their glory when they are plastered against the wet ground like forgotten Play Doh pie crust.  Fallen beauty now awaits the mouldering process that turns organic matter back into soil. It’s a necessary step in the cycle of life, this cold fall rain that strips away litters of leaves from their tenacious parent trees. Euthanasia comes to mind. It’s sometimes called mercy killing. And I wonder is it a merciful death that’s meant or the death of mercy? In any event, I take the thuggish assault by this weather personally.

Good Lord! I am a weather wimp, I tell myself. So the damn leaves have fallen on the cold wet ground? Get over it!! Winter is early and you are not really ready inside your head. So get the psychic equivalent of a wool sweater out of storage and put it on your oversensitive neural synapses. Turn up the thermostat and Man up! Seek and enjoy the warmth that is available and stop whining about what has moved on. Whew! That felt good, like the football coach pep talk to his losing junior varsity team. Still, a glommy gloom lingers on this dark Monday. A cruise ship could silently slip into town under the fog and drizzle and not be noticed till the frozen sunlight returns.

Joel, “What is that large object in the square? It looks like the Costa Concordia or the Titanic.”

BS, “Looks like someone left a cruise ship stranded there where the fountain used to be. That’s something you don’t see every day.”

Joel, “Hmmmm, there will be litigation here. I can almost taste it.”

BS, “What does litigation taste like, Counselor Joel?”

Joel, “That’s an astute question. Hmmmm. It tastes like precious metal in your mouth, like pure gold, fizzing in a bath of Dom Perignon champagne, chasing Russian caviar or goose liver pate into your upper gastro intestinal system.”

BS, “That’s a pretty complex palate, my friend.”

Joel, “Why yes, litigation is an acquired taste. It’s not for everyone, mind you.”

BS, “What if a person didn’t want it, you know, but was accidentally exposed to it. Like an attorney’s kid sips what it thinks is Coca Cola but it turns out to be liquid litigation. What then? Is there an antidote?”

Joel, “Again, astute, very astute. The antidote, though I can’t imagine why anyone would want it, is a tall glass of goat’s milk.”

BS, “Why goat’s milk?”

Joel, “It gloms onto one’s taste buds and coats the drinker’s throat, much like this nasty weather is coating our town.”

BS, “And does it leave an equivalent cruise ship in its aftermath?”

Joel, “Don’t be silly.”

BS, “It’s too late for that Joel. We are deep behind silly lines now and will have to fight our way back to normalcy. And since I did not have the ROTC training that you received during the Vietnam Conflict, I will follow your orders.”

Joel, “Very good then. One tactic I learned back in my training was to play possum in battle. In other words, when the lead began to fly, one should simply lie down until the shooting was all over. I found that to be the very essence of survival.”

BS, “Isn’t that also known as cowardice?”

Joel, “Oh no, quite the contrary. Sterling officers in my class were trained to survive and then lead a lead free life.”

BS, “You mean they never deployed?”

Joel, “Well, that’s why they were sterling, untarnished by the caustic atmosphere of war.”

BS, “But you did go to that famous civil rights march in Petersburg, Virginia, as I recall, didn’t you?”

Joel, “Yes, though my parents knew nothing of my liberal leanings, it was one of my proudest moments.”

BS, “Do tell, oh Prophet.”

Joel, “In my liberal college days, maybe because I was harassed for being in the ROTC, I signed up for the trip to Petersburg to protest the Jim Crow laws still on the books. In fact, this may be one of the key reasons why I chose law as a career.”

BS, “Please, Counselor. Remember that the first time you told me this story you signed up right after that most pretty young hunk of undergraduate woman signed up, and furthermore, that if she had signed up for the Sudanese equivalent of the Iditerod, you were going to sign up after her. Do you recall that, sir?”

Joel, “Well, there was that. But I was sprayed with fire hoses and chased by German shepherds.”

BS, “The breed of dog or the actual shepherds?”

Joel, “I will not dignify that question with a response. As we were abused by the militia and police that infamous day, I was knocked unconscious, only to be revived by the screaming pain of a broken collarbone.”

BS, “So what did you do?”

Joel, “My mates helped me back to the Rambler we had driven down from Pennsylvania, but when we got to the hospital, the staff refused to treat me. They hurled insults and scorn at us, and I could not even raise an arm to protest.”

BS, “That’s horrible! What cretins, what vermin, what termites in the good wood of society!!!”

Joel, “Actually it wasn’t so bad. I rode home with my head on Suzie’s freedom loving lap just inches below the forbidden fruit of her bosom. It was tantalizing: if I reached for her in my delirious state, the pain of moving my hand would coerce me to drop it. For hours I was so close to a lusty desire that could never be fulfilled.”

BS, “I thought you were a freedom fighter.”

Joel, “I- I- I was. Remember it was the Sixties; there were many causes to support.”

BS, “And your favorite was a double D?”

Joel, “Please, you make it all sound so self serving.”