(This blog post was originally written long-hand in Iron Mountain, Michigan while gathering with my writing sisters at one of our homes this past week.)
It is like the seed put in the soil — the more one sows, the greater the harvest. Orison Swett Marden
The thankful receiver bears a plentiful harvest. William Blake
Though no pumpkin sits on our doorstep, and our garden, the one in our side yard that used to grow chard and kale, cherry and heirloom tomatoes, snap peas and crisp beans, the garden we used to care for with mulch and compost, is now thick with mint gone wild and bunnies raising family after family, though we now buy our vegetables at the farmer’s market from someone else’s garden, I still feel it, my personal bounty in this season of harvest. I feel it as I sit here in my writing sister’s country home nestled in a hardwood and pine forest atop a bluff with a garden down below, a garden that would be the envy of any serious farmer. There is a part of me that breathes deeper surrounded by all this earthiness, all this domesticity, with squash piled high on the back porch steps and kale still growing strong in tidy well-weeded rows. I loved the garden we once kept, the pea-plucking and squash-pulling, the tomatoes ripe on the early autumn vines, but that has not been my harvest this year. I instead pluck what is mine to pluck, place it all in my metaphoric basket, my bounty abundant, my heart sumptuously soft as any sun-soaked tomato.
You see, I have been traveling on my traveling feet this past September, flying high over this country’s ripened fields, first westward over plains and mountains and a huge span of the South Pacific for a Labor Day weekend in Hawaii, then, days later, eastward to the coast of Maine, then westward again over soybeans and sunflowers to sunny Idaho and snowy Montana, to Red Lodge and a family wedding in this gateway town to Yellowstone National Park. But this isn’t what I want to tell you, that I’ve uprooted myself three times in the past four-and-a-half weeks to travel far and wide. Not at all. I could not possibly squeeze this arial view from a plane’s window into a market bag, a metaphoric basket. It is the details I want to share, the savory ripe grounded close-ups that I pick from the vine and place lovingly, carefully into a place where I can taste the goodness as I reminisce.
There is the hike along cliffs overlooking a bay, a rambling hike on a sunny Sunday afternoon, the first ever with my younger brother and his wife who have recently moved back to our birth town in Maine. Their adult daughter, who was visiting, also joined us, and the water, the water was green that day, the color of emerald stones. I place that color in my basket, and the fairy houses of sticks and moss and shells that we passed along the rooted way. There was the sweetness of it all, connecting with a brother and his family. And, that evening, singing Irish ballads in an Irish pub in our coastal town with the locals, some of whom are really Irish — I place that evening with family and friends in my basket, and the sand beneath my feet the next morning, the wide expanse of beach, the whole of the sea washing in, splashing over my capris, salt-soaking my skin. It is a harvest that I relish, a relish of a relish. I tasted Maine on this particular trip east in mid-September and I will store it, the taste of it all, in my memory’s root cellar and I will feast on it again and again.
And Hawaii. The ridiculousness of executing such an endeavor, a weekend trip over Labor Day to the South Pacific with a honey of a spouse — that truly is a honey of a thing, something that every market basket should include. And ridiculous can be quite tasty. Just ask a cucumber that has grown askew like a twisted-up long skinny carnival balloon — and our ridiculously wonderful two-and-a-half days of Pacific blue, hibiscus red, of swaying palms, a full ripe moon and windy and wavy, I can wrap my arms around the whole of it, carry it easily, add it to the cornucopia of my harvest. My harvest is magnificent and I am savoring it now, tasting it with the utmost of satisfaction.
God is in the details, the gestures that might seem insignificant — a tiny cherry tomato of a gesture might make all the difference to a grandson or granddaughter, might make all the difference to a grandmother, as well. And that is how I topped off my September of bounty, with what seems like a million tiny gestures and moments on the third trip, the one back out west to Idaho and then to Montana for a family wedding. I wish that you could see my grandkids. They are the pumpkins in a pumpkin patch and I just dwell among them and bask in the brilliant orange of autumn. And orange is the color of creativity, of fire, of zest and zip, and I am brave and I am zesty and zippy when I am with these little ones. Yes, my harvest contains the oceans, Pacific and Atlantic, the wide western sky, but it also contains the sheer fun, the bust-me-wide-open exultation of being with grandkids. So what can I place in my basket, what sweet fruit of a detail from each of them?
Here is a nugget for you, a fruit that I will share. I stood on the sideline and witnessed my six-year-old grandson lined up in the front row of an afternoon karate class, his eyes locked to his teacher’s eyes, his hands clenched in soft fists, his stance strong and grounded ready for his teacher to issue the command. I am placing my grandson’s sincerity, his gentle-strong sincerity into my basket and I’m going to eat of this fruit. And his three-year-old cousin calls me Grandmama and is unleashed around me and I around her. I place our skidaddles, our dilly-dallies, our nonsense talk into my basket, the reminder that silly is wise and pleasure is a food I want at my table. And the six-year-old’s sister, who toddles and juts out her jaw and shows off her bottom snaggleteeth and scrunches her shoulders and is as cute as cute can be when she runs to me — how can this not be included in a basket of bounty? And the youngest of them all, eleven-month-old brother to three-year old skidaddler, is as sweet as any harvest peach and pats me on the shoulder when I pick him up and trusts me with his everything and adores my spouse, his grandpa, and their specialness, I’m hoarding it and it’s going into my basket.
It’s all going into my basket, bounty overflowing and me greedy in my gratitude, grateful beyond measure and eager for more.
September Harvest, 2018