*This post was originally hosted on another blogging platform (MSN Space to MSN Live and finally WordPress). When the content was transferred the media files were lost. I’ve chosen to add new photos rather than delete the post. I try to match any updated content to previously posted comments. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t so the comments can seem to be out of context but I don’t want to delete any of them as they are a part of my blogging history.
The Fertile Crescent was located in the historical region comprised of Ancient Egypt, the Levant and Mesopotamia. Though this area no longer exists in the prominent political state it once did it remains to many The Cradle of Civilization, home to the origins of writing, complex societies and modern agriculture practices; arguably the birthplace of modern mankind. It was in the welcoming climate and lush fields of the Fertile Crescent that wheat was first domesticated and took a prominent place in the development of society as we know it. Though the crescent has seen its day and passed into an uncertain night the wild einkorn and emmer that birthed the multitude still watch over the descendants in shades of green and gold. Here, half a world away, their offspring, in the form of winter wheat, is waist high and stretches out behind the house in endless acres to the horizon.
The gaze of the dying day crowns the stalks in coronets of burnished light. Liquid gold rushes and sways above the earth in flowing currents as far as the eye can see. The bottom of the yard, where the lawn ends and the wheat begins, is the only place the foundation can be seen. There the individual stalks stand in sharp contrast to the golden plane above. The wheat is a living mass bending to the will of the wind and reflecting the colours of the sky. In the morning the secret travels of deer are betrayed in wide swathes where their passage has disturbed the dew. Swallows skim over the waves of golden green, that break as the lake crests, looking for dinner in the still twilight hours. Blackbirds, crows, robins and meadowlarks settle among the stalks all-a-gossip while keeping a mother’s proud eye on fledglings fumbling up to the sky (the amber is a softer place to fall after all).
The rank and file, beetles, ants, and centipedes, wind their way through galleries lined with massive columns of corded green. On the ground below the days are not marked by a tick tock but the angle of light passing through the great ceiling of towering honey and fresh cress. Even under the bright blaze of noon or the driving rain of a summer storm the wheat stretches above in a seemingly endless and eternal protection from the great wide sky. Winged insects traverse the upper reaches of the flaxen firmament. True to each ones’ nature they careen wildly from side to side or gently round the tawny trunks. Bees harvest the clover that grows hidden in the shadow of the wheat while flies and mosquitoes hide from the heat of day. Dragonflies and damselflies patrol the ceiling and spiders spin their webs from stalk to stalk hoping to catch the harvest that lives within. Just past the border foxes and raccoons leave the remains of midnight repasts. Puddles of baby soft feathers trickle in shades of eider grey and odd shaped bones gnawed thin at the edges by pointed teeth gleam a dull white.
Come August the wheat that has blushed copper with the heat of the sun will fall beneath the farmer’s blade. The stalks that sheltered and fed a multitude in the field will leave to feed and shelter others…but August has yet to come. Now in June, even when there is no wind, the wheat sways with a communal rhythm of its own. Deep emerald touched with gold, it moves with us, walking the same path start to finish, growing, feeding, sheltering, urging us on through time and through tide…the green, green grass of home.
The rain has come and washed away the pack of rabid dog days. The feverish hounds, all sweat and sweltering foam, tucked tail between their legs and ran panicked, harried by the lake wind and the heat lightning clouds. Hunkered down in the place the cur goes to hide they’ll bide their time till August calls her canis hours. Morning breaks with the cool kiss of an early June dawn and spring finds its step once again.
The first day of the spectacular heat was a blessing; finally my feet would be warm for the first time this year. It was definitely humid but a cool drink and a place under the umbrella on the patio always lessens the worst of it and wasn’t it nice that summer had come before spring was officially over. It was warm to sleep but it couldn’t last, summer was officially still over two weeks away. The weatherman said we set a new record and as always noted that, “It’s not the heat, it’s the humidity!”
The second day of the unusual spring heat was exasperated by the circumstances of a dark figurative cloud hovering in the otherwise cloudless humid hazy blue sky. The disheartening greyness that can attach itself to one small disappointment or difficulty was an attractor that layered up misfortune in mucousy layers of a nacreous black pearl curse. A garnish of insult added to the day’s injury was the goo of solar melted gum stuck to the bottom of my flip-flop followed by a semi- torturous ride home at a very temperate speed. One eye was locked on the road and the other on the gas gauge after discovered (in direct opposition to what I’d been assured) that the single gas station between there and home was NOT open past 9pm. I suddenly didn’t care that my feet were warm…it’s not like I don’t own socks.
The third day dawns just as sluggish and moist as the first two. The humidity is a curtain of haze layered thick and torpid across the yard. The dog refuses to budge from the kitchen floor. Her shroud of thick fur weighs her down and she lays shamelessly splayed out on her back, legs a brazen wishbone in the air. A thin smear of blackened gum residue still clings stubbornly to the bottom of my flip-flop. It collects clumps of dried grass cuttings as I head out into the yard. The laundry hangs limp on the line. Skirting round the edge of the yard I try to stay in the shadow of the trees. That can only get me so far and finally I step out into the open to stand under the misplaced sun.
A hand of dense heated air reaches out to envelop me. The humidity forces my lips open and oozes down my throat. My lungs labour to separate oxygen from liquid and my chest feels pneumonia heavy. The air, the heat, the humidity have a gravity that pushes down with a strangling weight and I slouch across the lawn.
The crabgrass I had come to weed out is almost two feet high at the back of the yard. The mosquitoes are thriving there as well in the unexpected tropical environment. They swarm up from under the ground cover as I sort through the stems. I try to grab more grass then blooms but in the heat it’s hard to raise too much concern about a lily or two. The heavy air is a sedative; languid, I wanted to lie down, close to the damp earth. I can feel that under the grass it was still dew cool even with the sun overhead. The garden dances under that ferocity in shimmering waves of ultra violent not sleepy in the haze but awake and going about its very serious business.
The chokecherry tree has finally bloomed. The racemes give off a delicate scent, baked by the sweltering sun, the aroma is redolent of candy apples as it is drawn in over the palette. The chives are crowned by little fuzzy heads of punk rock purple. The irises are a shameless study in Georgia O’Keeffe imagery and the pines breathe out smoky clouds of pollen with the least bit of encouragement. Everywhere the insects crawl or fly, alighting to taste from one or to bring to another. Clouds of bees, oligolectic or opportunistic, both full of electrostatic charges defy the sun and toil at their love. There in the languid heat there is no black pessimistic pearl for Wednesday’s child but the busy workings of a greater cycle of appetite and instinct, purpose and avidity.
The wind rises and the storm’s precursor trumpets over the lake. The sky darkens as the rain clouds bring an early dusk to the yard. Those flowers that bow heads and close petals to sleep fall into an uneasy slumber thinking that night has come. An apocalyptic sun, a virus plagued sullen red, hangs low on the horizon. Lightning jumps across the sky. The long jagged whips scorn the ground and fling themselves from cloud to cloud. The rain comes and it is blind, lost in the grey green light, and so the sound arrives first rushing across the fields flicking the hard winter wheat with stiff fingers. I race it to the house weaving in between the big fat drops to slip into the mud room just ahead of the deluge. The screen door slams behind me as raindrops hit the concrete patio and explode like over ripe cherry tomatoes.
Though summer still looms with all its possibilities on the horizon, this heat wave has finally broken. The breeze gently pushes the curtains back from the window where the dog and I sit watching the rain come down.
The firmament divides somewhere overhead. The eastern sky is a cherub’s blue, tonsured in cumulus white. The western sky is a mutinous grey, fallen wings cast out from above. The house sits below the split. The facing windows hang out over the precipice, both in front of and then inside the quickening storm.
The wind is a dog that shakes the trees, throttling the tops, jerking them back and forth. Across the fields the lightning flares, silent at first but then it kisses the ground. Burnt air flinches back and the music of the universe spills out of the light. The thunder is a work calloused hand that scrapes and rasps across the skin. A drop slaps hard on the windowsill, and then a second, and then a third. Petals fall from the apple trees chasing the storm to the ground. The rain is an airborne river and the small windows of mesh that pattern the screens fill up and hide the garden and the yard.
A door slams shut overhead and the sudden realization that the bedroom windows are open sends us running up the stairs. We hurry from room to room, forcing down the sashes, wiping the windowsills, laying towels down on the wet carpets, grumbling and laughing a little. Laughing not because it was funny, but because the wind was so strong, the lightning was so wild and the gunshot cracks and black rumble that sang accompaniment as it split the air had held us frozen and made us forget that we were safe inside. The sky flickers with diamond fire. An alto chord tears free to grind along the spine and we shiver within the embrace of the windows and the roof and the walls.
The tulip heads are bent and heavy with the remnants of rain. The wind has died down and the sun has returned to warm the air. The green bite of the garden after the rain comes in through the newly opened windows. The back end of the storm hangs in the eastern sky, a clear line drawn across the horizon. It sends back a parting roll of thunder that fades into the drip, drip, drip of sodden trees.
The day before was warm, the earth waking and stretching, languid in the bright sunlight. Lying on the grass, I could hear things growing, pushing up towards the sun. Dog by my side, just in the shade of the crabapple tree, and the pages of my abandoned book slowly turning in the breeze I halfheartedly promised myself I would go in and start supper, in just a minute. I was also going to look up the term nematologist and search for a picture so I could see if there really was a type of woodpecker practically extinct in the woods of Georgia (neither was really central to the book’s story line but I like to know what there is to know), in just a minute. That minute hung indefinitely in the spring air like the smell of apple blossoms and the golden pine pollen floating on that lazy breeze.
I watched Kera turn her fuzzy head back and forth following the dive pattern of the birds as they swooped across the yard. Graceful and precise they did not seem like birds at all but more like bird shaped projectiles sliding along invisible guylines. The sky was an impossible blue that only belongs to the spring and the whole world seemed optimistic and full of possibilities. The tomorrow that was to follow was anything but.
I live in a farming community and I understand that the bottom line of farming is business so there really is no blame to be assigned. When my neighbours sold their acreage to an absentee farmer I knew there was a chance that things might change. That change came just past the dawn that followed that perfect spring afternoon, heralded by the sound of diesel and gasoline. It was time to say good-bye to the apple trees in the old orchard behind my house.
The orchard was years too old to be productive but it was a place of strange beauty. There were odd unexplained lights there at night. The soft soil would often be marked with the comings and goings of deer, fox and raccoon. The gnarled trees were aged like the hands of old men, grace embodied and made beautiful by the skill and toil of a full life. Even on the stillest day, the trees would shiver as if in memory of all the winds, bitter or sweet, they had known in seasons past. It is no crime but a shame none that less as the world now finds itself just a bit less beautiful in the ever powerful name of commerce.
The morning was just as bright as the day before but instead of the accompanying chorus of birdsong, the morning, that mourning, was heralded by the sound of chainsaws and bulldozers. It is incongruous really, and almost obscene, to hear the sound of those falling limbs while the smell of apple blossoms fill the air. In winter, it might have been bearable. The trees would have been oblivious, dormant in the cold. They would have fallen asleep in the fall and simply never awakened…a kinder fate I think than this spring massacre.
The limbs of my apple trees are alive with birds and bumblebees. The voices of the birds mix with the murmur of nonsense that all bees whisper as they go about their business. Masses of delicate blooms, pearly through the day with the sheen of early morning dew, breathe out the ether of heaven. The blackcap and wild raspberry canes that grace my acre are gloved in bright green shoots while just a glance away the orchard canes lie crushed and broken, salting the ground that gave them root and nourishment. Garlands of spring blossoms lie scattered and broken on the empty field. Where the orchard once was there is only the scar of broken soil, a spring mourning, glaring black and bare amidst the liquid waves of wind caressed winter wheat.