The First Unofficial Day

Yesterday I almost tripped over pumpkin vines crowding the garden path as I rushed to deliver the bushel of ripe tomatoes to the waiting sink of cool water. The heady aroma of jalapenos and cumin was a homey greeting as I crossed the threshold. Weary from standing all day in the heat of a steamy kitchen with only a break to pick produce under the hot sun, there was no respite from preserving the harvest until the last simmering salsa was placed in mason jars and sealed in a boiling water bath.
How can I complain when we have so much? The pantry is full of berry preserves, canned fruits and pickles and the chest freezer neatly packed with blueberries, beans, corn and soon, pumpkin. Neighbors and the church produce table have seen the benefits of the garden, too. We will eat well this next year.
Yet, as I wipe my brow on the stained floursack towel tied around my waist, I find myself mumbling, “I just can’t peel one more tomato.”

Well, I picked, peeled, cooked and canned from before dawn to dusk. Begrudgingly, at first, until at last I viewed dozens of sparkling jars that neatly lined the countertops as they cooled; jars with a bit of summer sealed inside that we would appreciate on snowy winter days.

For years I had wished for a time such as this, a time to pick and preserve the garden. Too many harvest seasons have seen produce spoil on the vine for lack of time. This year was different. I was given a break from work contracts directly during the peak of harvest. I know I should joyfully thank God for this opportunity. I feel guilty for the secret, complaining thoughts that I have.

At last, dinner was cooked, served and the dishes cleared. It was time to take Callie the dog for her nightly walk and then finally relax with the magazine that was delivered earlier in the day. The stroll always ended at the gardens and orchard where a mental note of tomorrow’s chores was made. “I better not see any ripe tomatoes!”

Sparse, heavy drops bounced off sun-scorched leaves, creating plumes of dust where they first hit the dirt path. Could this be rain? Just one day short of a record dry spell, it felt odd to accept the umbrella that my husband took off of the back porch hook as we started our after-dinner walk. Rain-freshened air, the only type you can get after a drought-ridden summer, refreshed my body to forget the labors I complained about earlier.

“I hope this doesn’t split the tomatoes,” my husband mentioned as we turned back the covers of the bed. I gave a shrewd smile, then gleaned fall decorating ideas from the magazine as I listened joyfully to the soft, steady rain. The melodious drip-drop of sparse but heavy droplets hitting the dogwood tree outside our open window continued to serenade us through our sleep.

Maybe it was my imagination, but overnight every living thing became vibrant and happy. As the tomatoes slowed their pace, the pumpkins quickened theirs to foretell the coming season. Could it really happen that fast? One day? The cool ocean mist that clung to the top of the Doug Fir trees on the hill was the deciding factor. I grabbed my sweater with enthusiasm.

This is it, the first unofficial day of autumn!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

hurray for fall! I love it.