I love how, for the writer, writing can bring the past back to life. Today I rewrote the summer of 1971. Once again, I walked through dark green cornfields in Upstate New York, climbed the twisted boughs of apple trees, watched puffy white clouds lumber across a turgid sky, nudged by the heavy breath of mid summer. Fistfuls of juicy blackberries stained my fingers, dripped down my chin as I crammed the sweet, warm gems of the season into my mouth. Oh, to once again roam the sweet spot of childhood when summers stretch endlessly before you, ripe for adventure and offering a treasure trove of sensations: icy cold creeks to plunge dusty, bare feet into, where shiny darting minnows dare you to catch them in eager, cupped hands, the taste of ice-cold sweet watermelon slices and hot, buttery corn on the cob. Saturday morning cartoons shared with your little brother, the two of you tangled on the couch in a twist of spindly arms and legs, as you fought for your own space and argued half heartedly over Flipper or the Flintstones. Your Mom half listening and refereeing from her seat at the kitchen table, sipping coffee and working a crossword. Ah, close your eyes and come with me, we will escape the icy grip of winter and leave this middle age behind! Just take my hand, and hear the sound of the screen door as it slams behind us. Feel the grass as we kick off our Keds and run heedlessly through the back yard, into the fields and the thickets beyond. The sun is warm, the wind is light and the corn fields are whispering our names!
And still we harvest.
Even as we yank the last plants from the cold ground;
They hold on to the dirt for dear life
Balls of dark earth clutched in their roots
Still bearing cayenne peppers
of green, cherry red, fireball orange.
I sit in the damp dirt, marveling at the colors.
Some have skins that shine like waxed diamonds,
Others are scarred and dulled with striations of brown,
hash marks left by a hard frost.
How I wish for the summer to stay, for the sun to leave her bronze kiss
on my weary shoulders. The fiery autumn trees can’t seduce me.
Summer is my true love.
I will keep these brilliant cayennes, even the scarred ones.
And make a pepper jelly for those unforgivingly cold winter days
I will spread it over my morning toast and stare out a frost laced window,
dreaming of those lazy days past, the taste of summer dancing on my tongue.
Trees sigh and shed tears of yellow leaves onto the breeze.
Sad, for the passing of summer.
The leaves having soaked the lemony summer sunshine up
Into their veins, yet in vain
For the sun is not eternal, and none of us are immune from dying.
Except, perhaps, the thousands year old boulder excavated a hundred years ago, where I sit, holding an apple up to my nose, eyes closed. (You can’t really smell an apple unless your eyes are closed) Cinnamon, clove, citrus and the earthy scent of raw honey.
Red jewels with shiny skins the apples lie in the golden and green grass like treasures. Prepared for sweetness, I bite the smooth hard skin and it bursts beneath my teeth with a snap and a flood of tartness breaks the spell the scents have put me under.
Autumn has crept up as usual, to spring in front of us and wave her red-gold-orange-flag to dazzle by day and enchant by night with a crisp diamond studded sky, as if winter is not far behind.
I can’t stop the seasons.
But I can still take the broken apple to the barn and share it with my friends, the horse, and the donkey, and we can still bathe in the warm honey sunshine.
See the dust rise up from the hay bales and dance in that last fools gold light of summer.