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Monday, October 22, 2012

Fall in the Valley…Or is it?

The Valley, mid Oct.The autumnal equinox has come and gone by a month. A week or so ago the Valley breezes seemed balmy, the breath of Indian Summer filling my nostrils as Gladys and I glided along. Today, however, as I do my constitutional walk, the wind has teeth, a bite of chill as if to say, “Let’s get on with the program: it’s mid October and you can kiss summer goodbye. Pin your Christmas list to the fridge and keep the credit card handy.” The western sky, gauzy with rain, screes the horizon.

This year’s corn is chopped, packed, and fermenting into silage for the Valley’s hungry cows. I can see across the Valley now. A short month ago the view was walled out by rows of corn. Memory of this year’s crop litters the roadside, chips of chaff strewn by silage  trucks. The cornfields are bare, shed of their stalks. Once again I can see the dairy barns, the farmhouses, the cottonwoods that line the river. Valley dairymen have taken advantage of the recent stretch of good weather, harvested and stored the corn, tilled and planted the fields with spring hay.

The cackle of geese and ducks fills the sky. Skeins of Canadians vee their way above the Valley in military precision; flocks of ducks pulse about the clouds like amoebas (whatever military training ducks receive is quickly forgotten), and in the pre-dawn murk I hear the percussion of shotguns—Valley duck hunters thinning out the incoming.

Doorsteps bulge with pumpkins, the hallmark seasonal orange, mouths agape in ghoulish smiles. (Little kiddos at Freddies frolic among the golden globes as if they were presents under the tree; there’s nothing like a plump pumpkin to bring out the kid in a kid.) pumpkin goblinWooly bear caterpillars huffle across the road. Many won’t, don’t, reach the other side and become grease spots on the pavement. Yesterday as we pedaled by, Gladys ting-a-linged Song, the Cambodian flower farmer. He was working among his dahlias. Nearly every day last  month I saw him gathering armloads of flowers destined for the Pike Place Market. Four or five nights of frost a week ago blackened the patch. No flower gathering yesterday; Song was cutting the stalks and digging tubers before a hard freeze settled on the Valley and destroyed his cash crop.

On my return I approach Ed and Ginnifer Broers’ place and note the two ancient apple trees in their yard. Windfall apples litter the lawn. The branches, like the cornfields, are barren, bereft of leaves and fruit. I am closer now and notice something strangely out of place in the old King apple tree closest the road, some sort of seasonal anomaly. Sprinkled among the lower branches I note freshly opened apple blossoms, perhaps a dozen or so--pink and white polka-dots of spring. Off to the east the clouds choke the Cascades and new snow seeps like bare feet from beneath a nightgown. The season’s first snowfall has dusted the nearby foothills. Here it is, mid-October, and I’m seeing apple blossoms! It’s either an early April Fool’s joke or the ancient apple has entered its dotage, a sad, senile, confusion of the equinoxes.False spring

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