Friday, October 9, 2009

What This Blog Could Become - The Bike Report: Gleaner's Season

Sailing down the hill this morning, biking toward town just behind your young son,  you realize you've not only come without breakfast.  But also without water.

Hydration: Serious cyclists pore over articles about ~ ; Never leave home without ~ ;  Otherwise, every flaccid vein of your dessicated body will be shouting ~ !

But not to worry.  This is gleaning season. 

Say, you actually do, nominally, belong to a group called The Gleaners' Group - which group seems to have, sadly, though with melancholy aptness, died on the vine . . .  The vision behind that group was a more thrifty and thorough sort of gleaning than what you do today (and really, what you do everyday you are out on the bike, or walking, during gleaning season).

Season begins in August when the growing-wild blackberries ripen. 

You know with your nose it's time when you coast (around that corner by the old farmhouse, where the new development is going in) into a cloud of winey, flowery fragrance that is the smell of blackberries, plump and full of all the rain and sun of the summer, tiny dark globes shining heavily in a fat cluster. 

Then it is that you come back from rides with the children into town, all purple-tongued and stained fingers.  You linger in the creek bottom before climbing your last hill home, bikes propped at the roadside, stepping gingerly into the wild thorns, looking for a darker blackness amid the shadows.  Your fingers can tell by touch which berries are ready for the picking. Plump and gravid, full to bursting with a dark sweetness.   Hydrating, you see, fueling up for the climb (because serious cyclists use this kind of mechanistic language to mark the gravity of their sport - and you can't deny your final hill always brings home the real weight of gravity.)

And then as September rolls in, the plums begin to fall from their trees.  Whatever falls on the roadside belongs to the road, you say.  Actually, the owners of these trees themselves will coax likely looking mums-of-young to take "all you want" directly from the branches of the trees.  When you were younger and more bustling you used to fill buckets and boxes and carry them home (back up that hill!) in the bike baby trailer, bottling them up to top Breakfast Plum Cake through the winter.

The plums still fall.  Icy-blue bloom over midnight sky.  Hidden in the grass like so many Easter eggs. Golden-dripping-sweet on the inside.  You eat them riding home, lusciously, one hand steering by fingertips, the other dangling the dripping fruit out away from your clothes.

And now, October.  It's so cold these past few mornings, you've had to dig out your poet-in-the-starving-garret half-gloves.  You hide your fingers curled up inside the glove's warm and woolen palm for the chilly downhill glide into the creek bottom, for the icy pedal up the slow rise to the fairgrounds (this least satisfying of hills - lots of effort, no exhiliration at the top).  But at the corner,  an apple tree you've been watching since September.

What was a month ago an abundant clutch still ripening is now fully ripe and mostly fallen to earth.

Going to waste, unless someone takes pity on the horses across the way.  Or helps themselves.

Which you do.  In the rising sun, warmer by the minute, you coast down from your corner deity, Lady Pomona, goddess of abundance, heading toward the town by the river, apple in hand, crunching your way through a quintessence of Autumn Morning.  By the second bite, you're thinking not hydration, you're thinking a touch of anise?  citrusy overtones?  So sweet.  So crisply cold.

And yes, there is a wormhole and the center has turned brown.  You bite around it.  And when you've eaten as much as you care to, you toss the core into tall grass in the ditch by where the sunflowers grew this summer.  Right ahead, where the road curves (around that corner by the old farmhouse, where the new development is going in?) there's another apple tree. 

This tree has apples of a deep and desirous red, scattered all around its base like fallen Christmas ornaments.  And a sign nailed into the trunk - No Trespassing.  So you take only the apples that have trespassed on their neighbors' lawn.  Tart and juicy with a more embodied texture.  Connoisseur of fallen apples, you roll the tastes over your tongue.  And keep pedaling.

And later, when the day has warmed again and the sun has passed its noon and your gloves are tucked back into your bag, you repeat the process in reverse.  Tart and juicy - like what you imagine a dry vermouth might be, as you climb back up from rivertown toward fairgrounds. 

Then, turning the corner and gliding back down that long, slow decline toward your own road, Definitely anise.  And something like the first whiff of those circus peanut marshmallow candies which always makes you think you're going to like them.  The fruit is maybe not so revelatory as it was this morning, being a little warmer, a little less crisp.

The final climb up your home hill is a killer.  But you remember: this morning, walking by moonlight, at one spot along the road you stepped into a sweet cloud ~

the heady, unbelievable, Bubblicious-and-grape-soda scent rising from your friend-and-old-lady-neighbor's trellis. 

Which tells you the gleaning season is about to end in a coming week of steam and dripping streamlets of warm juice and the ranks of glass bottles, row on row.  Some for your neighbor - just a bottle or two - and even more for you.

The juicing grapes, plump and almost bluish around their hard little seeds, are what smell so good and grapey.  What will give your juice the character it needs for your Thanksgiving table and Christmas wassail.  But for your more immediate delectation ~

Pale yellow as a harvest moon.  Small.  Seedless.  And so, so sweet.  Hanging down out of the branches of the pear tree.  You know your neighbor won't mind and you pluck a chilled and dangling cluster, full of the best of juices. 

Just to help you up the last steep stretch before home.


Lisa B. said...

Wonderful ride!

I love

>> Connoisseur of fallen apples

--yes, you completely are!

Melissa said...

Oh, this makes me wish I lived in a place where people grew, and the land grew, fruit so effortlessly. I think I would skip breakfast every morning if I knew these delights were waiting!

Linnea said...

I love the composition of the first apple shot over the wooden fence. Seeing all of this fruit has made me quite hungry for breakfast, but alas my fridge is minus the apples, grapes and plums...

Emma J said...

Linnea -I think that's my favorite shot, too. Thanks.

Mrs. Organic said...

I just wanted to say I love these photos and I covet your gloves. All, gorgeous.

Related Posts