Friday, August 13, 2010

Friday Ramble - Harvest

Harvest comes to us from the Old English haerfest which once meant simply autumn or fall, and the word is related to the German herbst, also meaning autumn or fall. Both words are kin to harrow or harrowing: to plough or turn the soil over in the waning months of the calendar year.

In the Lanark Highlands, harvest means round bales of hay in farm fields like great yellow coins, sheaves of grain drying in the sunlight and cribs overflowing with cobs of corn. It is grapes on the vine, potatoes, squash and red tomatoes gathered fresh from the garden, the happy buzzing of bees and wasps intoxicated by the nectars of goldenrod and Michaelmas daisies. It's fields of pumpkin plants in flower and apples in the orchard, cool and and redolent of autumn spice, but not quite ripe. Is there anything on earth as fine and tasty as a rosy Macintosh apple kissed by the first frost of the season?

On my hill in Lanark, it's milkweed pods giving away their shiny silk, meadowsweet going to seed and filling the air with its exotic fragrance, the scent of good dark earth and humus, the dry and slightly astringent perfume of fallen acorns, hickory nuts and oak leaves. It's a light wind dancing over the brow of the hill and greeting the happy wanderer when she arrives - that same blithe zephyr moves the blades of the old windmill on the hill at sunrise and makes it turn with merry abandon and the occasional rusty creak.

In harvest season, there is color everywhere. The whole world seems to be ablaze, and there are not enough adjectives to describe it: alight, blazing, burning, burnished, coruscating, effulgent, flashing, gleaming, glistening, glittering, glossy, golden, illuminated, incandescent, intense, irradiated, lambent, limpid, lucent, luminous, lustrous, phosphorescent, polished, radiant, ravishing, shimmering, shining, sparkling, vivid. The language needs a whole cauldron of other adjectives to describe such magnificence.

In the highlands of eastern Ontario, we're all thinking harvest; deer in the stubble fields, turkeys in the corn, squirrels among the nut trees, humans up on ladders in their orchards. We're harvesting, reaping, and gathering in, piling up firewood for our hearths in winter, putting things by for the long nights to come. Early windfall leaves in their red and russet and gold splendor are a rich and random harvest all on their own. So are our slowed honeyed thoughts of reciprocity, wild affluence, community and "the great round"

This is our favorite time of the whole turning year. We wander in untrammeled places, and beautiful Cassie is right there dancing along with us in spirit. As soon as the lingering traces of the last disastrous tumble vanish, we are out of here and off to the woods. I am (however) taking my blackthorn walking stick along.

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