I'm hanging sheets on my clothesline on a sunny Saturday morning in October. The dewy grass is so cold my bare toes are beginning to numb. Dew clings still to the line, even though the sun has been up for hours. Spider webs swag from clothespin to clothespin, sparkling in the sideways sunlight. Juncoes chatter fractiously in the cedar tree on one side while winter-brown Goldfinches gorge on thistle, their winter journey almost begun, to the other side.
Driving into town for this season's last visit to the Farmers' Market, my eyes are drawn skyward by a stitched shadow moving across the far away blue. Canada Geese by the hundreds. Vee after vee, traveling in shifting formation from west to east. Arrived from their summer homes, surveying for shifts in the landscape of their wintering place. Walt comments that hunting season starts today, and I send an urgent silent message skyward: Be safe!
The market is quiet. Maybe a third of the booths that contribute to the summer bustle are gone. The summer crowds are gone as well and it's easy to meander. Wandering with Walt, enjoying his company and the feel of my arm tucked in his, enjoying the space, savoring this last visit to hold me over the long winter waiting in the wings. Sun-filled spots make me wish I'd dressed lighter. Shady spots make me wish I'd worn real shoes.
I'm drawn to the dahlias, the dogs and apples.
We pass several flower vendors with bright flashy spidery bouquets, any of which make my heart leap with pleasure, headed for my favorite. I've been buying flowers from this booth all summer, and while I can't say exactly why I love this particular vendor, it's a relationship I treasure nonetheless. Sometimes I'll ask her to make a bouquet for me, just to watch her work and for the surprise of the results. Sometimes I'll ponder the choices and pick from the many possibilities at my feet. Sometimes, like today, Walt and I pick together and I feel loved in a particularly precious way while he pays.
There is always an abundance of dogs here. Not all are well-behaved. Not all are pretty. Not all are happy to be here. But I revel in the variety, laugh at the antics, and thrill every time I see a cousin of Toby. Today we meet a couple with a pair of Golden Retrievers and ask to say hello. The conversation is satisfying in a hot chocolate on a cold day kind of way. Comforting, familiar, energizing.
For weeks now, my primary objective at the market besides flowers has been to find the season's new apples. There is no food that satisfies my body and spirit as much as the first crisp sweet explosive apples of the season. An entire summer contained in a compact package of pure pleasure, consumed during the darkening days beyond summer.
Apples were very late ripening this year, and I've had to make do with scant selection. When we arrived today I wasn't expecting much. And of course today was the day that every single produce booth had samples of several varieties of apples at the absolute peak of perfection. I flitted like a bee gathering nectar from the season's last flowers to create enough honey to survive winter. Fuji. Rome. Golden Delicious. Gala. Granny Smith. Winter Banana. Some new varieties with names that delighted but didn't stick. I barely restrain myself from cramming my mouth completely full of apple and letting the juices run wild down my face.
Walking Toby in the late afternoon on this same Saturday. The washed out, shadowy light makes the afternoon feel later than it actually is. The wind has picked up, but is surprisingly warm. Tear-shaped alder leaves are flung to the ground in its wake. Giant hands of big leaf maple wander the sky for a bit before settling here and there. Rusty douglas fir needles color the path red, creating a soft carpet over the dying grass.
Toby at the river, in the fading light, in the fading day, in the fading season. This dog at the beginning of his life, splashing with reckless abandon in his ageless river. A river newly lush with recent rains, ready for the spawning salmon which should arrive any day.
I pull the air and the day as deeply into my lungs as I can. Air that still holds summer's heat in the midst of the moist coolness of fall. Air that holds life and death, hope and despair, light and dark in equal measure without any visible distinction between the differences.
Photos by Walt Shucka