by Linda Joy Cordtz
Black coffee and a sweet Bosc pear
enjoyed in the stillness
of a Sunday morning.
It is a busy time of year,
tomatoes and peppers
fill baskets on the kitchen table,
hazelnuts are in the dryer.
Cool darkness overtakes the day
And equinox is here again.
I ask the morning light’s forgiveness,
for I am cold and cannot remember the sun.
I hear the stillness of the
fruit-bearing trees and
long for them to cover me in their
golden leaves and let me rest.
Wander among the drying grasses and
Pick an apple from a tree,
Bite into autumn’s embrace and
kiss heaven’s lips.
The pace of work is starting to slow, there is a stillness settling close to the ground. The balance between day and night is here, the fall equinox is here tomorrow at 8:21 am. We are gathering hazelnuts among the shadows while the crickets sing. We share them with mice, skunks, raccoons, and squirrels. Orchard Lesson #43: You cannot harvest everything. I make a push to get all the nuts picked up, the wind blows and the nuts fall again; sharing with the wild-lings is good. Balance, the key to beauty. This time of year holds everything that I treasure, the smell and taste of fall are here.
A physician has prescribed rest for me,
So I’ve made up a game called Restorative Farm Yoga.
Lie in the shadow of a tractor wheel
And count the clouds.
Working Dog Pose
Lie down with your dog
and listen to her snore
Laughing Cow Pose
Watch the cows in the adjacent field laugh,
as they watch me trying to relax.
The Compassion Pose
See how quickly Farmer Rob falls sleep
In his afternoon chair.
Churning Creek Pose
Listening to the creek flow
while doing nothing else.
Count the pulses of a cricket song.
Falling Leaf Pose
Tally how many leaves fall to the ground?
Hang laundry, watch it dry
And smell the dry perfume.
Dead Squirrel Pose
You never know how long you will live
So enjoy life.
Come, sit with me on this warm starry night,
The back porch swing is calling
We two can listen to the crickets sing and
I will tell you a story.
Nothing, my dear friend, nothing stays the same,
Nor is it ever what we thought it was going to be.
But what Life is
is more than I can ever find words for.
Take heart, the adventure lies in the not knowing.
Listen to the stillness of the night’s song,
for it plays just for us; in the present,
as we wait for sunrise.
Loss is real and I cannot
take away this color of pain from your life.
What we can do, my friend, is share it
and give back the breath of life to one another.
Hold my hand,
Its touch has some good years left to it.
We are all but the sweetness of memory,
melting into the night.
make a wish on the
Promise of now.
Life is in the minutiae, the spaces between notes of a song, the stalemate between words. We cut the paper dolls of life and let the details fall away. What we create is one-dimensional. The really good stuff is on the floor, misshapen piles make up the bulk of our lives.
Our harvest was intense and had ended abruptly, leaving a hollow sound in my bones. Now the rains of emotion, which I can easily push aside for months at a time, come rushing in.
How was harvest? Everyone asks. We are still married, our safety record intact, money banked, and our age felt more readily this year. What a bountiful year. We have given birth yet again to a glorious life called farming.
Farmer Rob asks me to lunch. It will be romantic, he said. Lunch was nice. First stop, recycling. Next, the saw shop. We were told our chainsaw was too old to repair, “Please buy a new one.” Next stop, soil amendments for the garlic bed. Next purchase—large plastic bins to store bee frames in, to keep out the wax moths. The list goes on, our romance is laced with bits of honey, buggy apples, half-eaten nuts, and a strong urge to keep going. For all too soon we will be overripe and spent.
It is a cold, clear dawn, the arctic air flows through the trees like liquid ice. Bundled in warmth, I sip hot coffee on the porch swing, waiting for sunrise. Missing chlorophyll, the walnut leaves turn gold, the envy of any banker’s hoard. We will be picking apples in the cold morning light under an azure crown. The frosted leaves drop from the trees, drying in stacks like crunchy paper under our feet, as we pick and box ruby spheres. Where has his harvest gone? Just yesterday we picked cherries in the June heat; apricots, peaches, nectarines, plums and pears, in summer’s blaze. Time is the page that turns too fast and leaves me in the autumn light.
The sky is covered with gray clouds full of moisture, leaves scatter the ground with color as we pick the last of the walnuts. This wrinkly treasure is a wooden case filled with bittersweet protein, rich and full. The cultivation of walnuts dates back to Babylon and, at a Neolithic site in France, roasted walnut shells were uncovered, showing that walnuts had been eaten in Europe for 8,000 years. English walnuts are the most nutritious of all the nuts, and are listed as one of the 38 substances in Bach Flower remedies. Their perfume is like the sky kissed the ground with sympathy, then handed me a bounty to store all winter.
Harvest consumes our lives for months on end, we re-enter ourselves and the biographies of others we know and love. October is almost gone. I feel the brittleness of autumn and its beauty. Growing food for others is a massive effort. I long to grow dormant in the company of fall.
of your worries,
and return to where you started,
where all wealth lies.
Linda Joy Cordtz tends an organic orchard in eastern Oregon with her husband, Rob. “If you grow food,” she says, “you understand life. And you understand that we belong here, nestled between trees, plants, insects and animals.” This is an excerpt from her first book of poetry, Walking in the Orchard.