Beets

BeetsThough only my third time at the task, I was utterly convinced, in the barely wakened gaze of day, that the ideal time to harvest beets was after a steady night of summer rain.

As I walked myself & a few crates to the back field, the clay-heavy soil grabbed at my olive muck boots like suction cups. I imagined there was a mischievous land octopus that burrowed tunnels across the farm, rising up to play tricks on those who dared work its land.

By the time I reached the highly trafficked alleys between the vegetable beds, the earth’s wet tug had caked a mud ring around each of my feet, which remained there for the good part of the day. Due to this added weight to my steps, I navigated a precise though less-than-graceful line between the butterhead & red leaf lettuce to the first section of beets. I set down my crates, began listening to a homesteading podcast through the headphone buds in my ears, & got to work.

Gently pushing aside the dew-covered leaves, I immediately spotted a beautifully large Detroit Red. I grasped the base of those lovely fuchsia stems, & the wet ground released the beet with ease. As I was instructed by the farm lead, I began removing imperfect leaves there in the field, plucking off any red-veined ears speckled with leafminer or browned with ground rot & letting them fall beside me. The sun would shrivel the discarded plant matter, & the soil would incorporate it into nourishment for the next crop. I sighed in satisfaction at this good work & pulled another beet.

Hours of peaceful harvesting passed, & I collected close to 200 beets of the Detroit Red, Golden, & Chioggia variety.  We loaded the harvest up in the red farm pickup, & I hopped in along side it, bouncing & bobbing in the truck bed as we crossed the uneven field.

The humid heat of noontime arrived, & I was thankful to be under the shade cloth at the packing station. All of the beets needed to be washed & bunched for a CSA pickup that same day, so our team had to work especially fast & efficiently.

I volunteered to wash; I found great satisfaction in wiping away the mask of muck from a freshly plucked beet’s skin, revealing its vibrant, unparalleled stain. Each one I cleaned, I pondered the seeping & swelling of such colorful flesh under the ground, all from nothing more than a tiny seed & the magic of the earth.

We completed the CSA order with only minutes to spare. The crates of gloriously plump & bright beets waiting to be loaded up shined with the sun & the pride in our eyes. All I could continue to think was, “What good work. What good, hard, miraculous work.”

And tomorrow would bring the harvest of another uniquely beautiful fruit or vegetable, with its own method of growth & way of being processed, more opportunities for the farmer to learn from its flesh, to better tend to it so that it might better serve its purpose to the soil & to its good steward.

Water dribbled down my chin & glistening neck as I guzzled it with gratitude. “What good work. What good, hard, miraculous work.”

Dark Morning

Dark Morning

“… Like images in a puddle bent / Projected from the night.”

The misty morning haze
Paints thinly my coat
But kisses wetly my face
Unwelcome & contrite

And quite like a fuzzy mote
In the vision of the day
Floats dejectedly the sun
A lazy leak of light

And trees on the horizon
Hue muted & translucent
Like blue veins under pale skin
Rise then vanish from sight

And that dreary sun’s ascent
Queer’ seems to darken the day
Like images in a puddle bent
Projected from the night

 

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Mes Trois Chats

I opened my bedroom door this morning & was immediately greeted by the excited meow-squeals of the littlest, Evelyn. She was much too happy to actually sit & let me pet her, so I simply extended my hand & let her rub her own head against it. She continued to wiggle around my legs & bestow sweet love bites to my ankles while I went about my morning routine in the kitchen.

The rain pattering against the skylights echoed in the high ceiling space. A rumble of thunder reminded me that my Toulouse was nowhere to be seen; even the mildest of storms sends him into hiding. Before I finished pouring my coffee over a thick bed of coconut oil & cream, I deduced the most probable place he would be. Sure enough, I found him there, hunkered down behind the toilet, the farthest location from any portal that could expose him to the elements.

Like the wonderful cat mum I am, I moved the small trash bin & knelt beside him. I stroked his worried forehead & gave him kitty-kisses with the slow blink of my eyelids. It was not until I heard a soft purr start in his throat that I gave him a final kiss & continued to get ready for work.

Berlioz had been watching me from the bathroom counter all that time. When I went over to him, he arched his back in a big stretch, leaning into my loving neck scratches. He sat there next to me through my whole grooming ritual. This is most likely because I offered to let him sniff various things—the toothpaste cap, a cotton swab damp with witch-hazel, my contact case—as I went along. He enjoyed that.

My phone suddenly lit up & told me that I was running 5 minutes behind schedule, but a last round of goodbyes felt worth the inevitable hurried sprint across the flooded parking lot & dash up three flights of stairs when I got to work.

First I kissed Berlioz atop his giant head. Then I bent down to Toulouse & whispered assuredly that the storm would soon pass. And then I exited the bathroom to a delighted squeal from Evee who was squirming for another nuzzle.

“Have a good day, ma petite.”

Purse, lunch, coffee, umbrella—into the rain.

The Marsh & Little Wood

Such a little wood can only drink so much rain. Its leaves of myriad greens droop from days of constant beating. Its dark, bulging roots lay drenched & gasping for air. The saturated top soil shifts & bubbles with the push of excess water flowing up from beneath it. So much water that a sizable pond has formed there, beginning somewhere in the woods & spreading out across the marsh, which slopes down from the tree line.

All around, the grass thrives in these swampy conditions. It has grown tall & vibrant green, needle heads poking out like patchy stubble across the surface of the water. Leaning in over the pond, the trees gaze into the shallow, shadow-speckled pool. When their reflections ripple with each drip from their heavy bows, they can imagine what it might look like to see their old bodies dancing under the soft grey sky.

Ducks & geese flying overhead make a stop to swim & snack on the spongey vegetation. One brave drake paddles all the way up to the edge of the woods, much closer than he might have dared if venturing across the marsh one clumsy step at a time. Now he floats effortlessly above it. Several of his friends, emboldened by his brave display, join him. They quack in a line back & forth, mocking the twisted darkness.

The scene—the whole of the marsh & little wood I look down upon from atop a neighboring hill—is full of movement & life. I want to throw myself into the middle of it, immerse myself in the grass-filtered water without care, my only thoughts those pertaining to the wondrous coming of spring.

 

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Anxiety

When I accidentally let it in, it sneaks in through a single breath—one seemingly ordinary breath in a normal rhythm—so I never see it coming.

In through the nose & out through the mouth, in through the nose &—oh God!—

Heaviness like the color black drops straight into my chest. The sudden weight shatters my equilibrium, sending my eyes & thoughts spinning into my head. All around the fizzing, dancing, pinprick lights, I see threatening shadows creep in from all sides, like a dark wave swelling over me.

Am I drowning? Am I falling? Is the top of my head floating away? No, no, it is only in your mind.

My body is frozen with a chill that starts at my ears, crawls down my neck, my back, my arms. I realize then that my mouth tastes like blood, but it is a phantom smell; I triggered a reel of “teeth falling out” dreams to play. The fear of losing control circulates in my brain. My heart jolts & then quickens; my eyes widen; my hands shake; my teeth clamp; my stomach twists itself in a knot like a fetal position; & I can no longer breathe.

How again do I breathe? In through the nose—no, I did that. Out through the mouth?

I let it all go. The panicked parts of me immediately start to balance out again. I know I should keep breathing, seek the balance, but I am scared to take another sip of air.

What if it is there waiting for me? I’m sure it was hovering just above me all along…

I clutch my chest & focus my eyes in front of me.

In through the nose

A normal taste, a normal rhythm. My heartbeat slows. A minute of even breaths passes. I sit up straighter in my chair.

Just as quickly as the anxiety came, it left, & the day resumes again.

I never see it coming.

 

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Prevailing Light

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Gray clouds slid down the windshield of the sky like a river of ash, aiming to shut out the sunrise. But how that golden wave pushed back, glowing in its righteous defiance! Its colors flushed richly with the strain of its struggle, orange burning at its cheeks.

Its light was so pure & good that it drew in the help of the gallant east wind. Quite unfortunately, the wind’s charitable gusts proved almost too enthusiastic, & the moment it heard the bitter, shivering mumbles of cold humans tightening their jackets against it, the invisible Titan mercifully settled.

But without the wind the brave little sunrise trembled & began to falter. And so the gentle moon, still watching nearby, just on the other side of the veil, came to aid the cause. It did what it could to pull back the stormy tide, but, as for all creatures of the night, the day is primarily for sleeping, & its assistance quickly yawned into absence.

Noble efforts as they were, the darkness continued to fall, & the golden glow dwindled. With both quivering hands pressed against the descending shroud, the dying morning looked down upon the earth with an apologetic flicker.

I stood in the window, staring into the rapidly fading warmth of yellow light until the heavy clouds pinched out the last line of color on the horizon. But I did not despair; instead I smiled gently at the hazy orb still rising behind its dreary oppressor. A dim but prevailing light illuminated the day.

 

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Rising Day

A subtle, rising glow of light breathes gently upon the foot of darkness; morning waits beneath the horizon, building slow anticipation for the wide & shivering faces already packing themselves into frosted vehicles to start the day.

The foaming orange wave swells & crashes against the receding purple veil, gradually washing away into the signature blue sky that blesses us in the daytime—but not before finishing its grand entrance, anything but routine, a new show every sunrise; it is the purpose & joy of the proud sun to perform for all creation, awing us with its brilliant displays of color & light & warmth, illuminating the stage & allowing the sky to be seen.

A thin break of red flashes just under the curtain, almost open, the final gesture of the prelude, which rolls into the next scene. The painted clouds freeze for a moment on the closing frame. The earth smiles—I capture a picture—& the colors slowly sink into the still blue.

Act Two.
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Her Expression

Every thought she has ever had can be known by the study of her expression. Through the emotional vicissitudes of each day, her story is captured upon her face; she adds each moment to a frame & wears it in her secret way, subtly painted across angular features, pale olive & thin.

Always begin by reading her eyes. They are like porcelain orbs set in shallow caves with blinking mouths, identical drops of ink in each center. Sad India pigments bleed from those stains; they spread beneath the shear skin stretched under the curve of each socket. Along the hooded edges that hug her gaze, fans of eyelashes perch themselves in pairs of long, sultry wings. Her searching stare is always dark, always piercing, yet in a way that is rich, with capacious warmth, like a sip of bold coffee on morning’s tongue.

But, for God’s sake, do not drink & forget the detail on her lips—full & pastel pink, with the signature taste of mint. Their texture is pliable but firm, a bed safe to tangle & whisper in, two soft blankets over the crowded pearls of a dreamer. They laugh. They kiss. They speak—but they will not tell you the story of her expression; they will only playfully direct you back to the deep well of her eyes & smile with pleasure as you guess at how to draw from it.

 

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