Calhoun's Cannons for Sept 24, 20013
Bang! A few days ago it was summer, the dogs stirring in the living room by 4:30 a.m., sleep over, sensing the sunrise, the lightening sky. Then, comes the Autumnal Equinox and suddenly it's 6 a.m., it's still dark, and the dogs are restless and muddled; Too dark for a walk, too late to sleep, so they loll and doze.
How did that happen? The den where I type faces east, the blinds open to the back yard. The slightest lift in light is clearly noticeable as the great Mother Mallow plant's dusty leaves emerge from the gloom and the Great Grape Vine's topmost leaves high up on the back fence catch the first light of day. But then, suddenly, no Mother Mallow appears when it should be appearing and I look at the clock. Did it stop? Why is it 6:02 and still dark outside? When did that happen?
The suddenness shocks. I guess that's why they call it "fall." One day it's late summer, with its endlessly long days, then, Blam!, overnight, the air smells different, crisp, breezy, cool. And with surprising speed the fore and afts of the day begin and end with a rapidly closing darkness pressing in on both sides. Is that Halloween around the corner?
And where did my summer go, anyway? This year the winter seemed to linger, our usual June gloom lasting well into July so that all the heavy-lift winter garden clean-up chores got pushed into all of the spring planting chores. And when the sunny days finally came and the yellow Adirondack chair beckoned, I was hip-deep in pruned branches and pulled roots, rushing to get the garden into summer shape, no time to linger with a good book and the bees.
Finally, when the spring chores were done and summertime lollygagging beckoned, Boom! it was time to prune and prep for winter. No summer. No chair. No good books. And the bees, hard pressed to find the few flowers left, began to head back to the hive for a long sleep.
I did manage to get a few cherry tomato plants into the ground where they ran amok, spreading out of their cages like some alien vegetable that ate New Jersey. And before I could catch up to them, the great tumbling masses toppled over in a heap impossible to set right without breaking the vines. So there the great green mound stayed for the rest of the season, seventy million little red globes tangled in the middle of the green muddle making harvesting a challenge. But harvest I did, colanders filled with tiny but tasty globes.
And like any deluded backyard farmer with the sudden crisp chill descending, I'm already plotting out where I might plant some zucchini next year, since it's easy to grow and also because I've now got a great recipe for curried zucchini soup. And, of course, more kale . . and red Swiss chard. Maybe some pea pods? Pumpkins?
And so the books wait. The warm afternoons in a corner of the garden get pushed into
. . . later. Then, too late. Of course, this being California, there's one last parting gift to endure as the temperature suddenly spikes and sends the dogs under the nearest bush with their tongues lolling out, and the fierce hot Santa Ana winds blow out of the Mojave and the drought-stressed chaparral crisps and crackles and waits for a lightning strike. Or some careless fool with a match.
California's own Pele must have her annual sacrificial pound of char before the soft rains of winter can come, before the Autumnal Equinox turns its face to the dark moon of the Solstice, before the night expands, and quietude of a different sort descends. Too soon. Too soon.