Sunday, September 12, 2010

prairie dreams

The days are still too loaded, packed to the brim. Add a slight detour and they spill over. I find myself neglecting details. Forgetting, for example, that I had intended to pick up the tomatoes from the market down the hill.

I forgot last Wednesday.

Contrite, I’m there now (Saturday), with Ed. Fifty pound for $15. The large tomatoes have a few blemishes, but we carve them, bag them, freeze them. In the winter, the soups are enriched by their late summer juices.


The day is gray. The rains have almost passed, but there is a feeling of impending drizzle. Still, we have signed up to join a handful of volunteers building the Ice Age trail. We hadn’t worked on the trails for many months and I’m thinking, as frequent hikers, we owe them some of our time. Besides, it’s very easy to give in to upper body lethargy. A few hours of working the pick wakes up all sorts of dormant muscle groups.

And if you need one more reason to join the dedicated trail builders, it is this: mid September is the very best time, I think, to be out in the prairies of the Midwest. People take out cameras and head for the forests when the leaves turn, but they neglect this, the most beautiful in my mind time out in the prairie.


Even on a cloudy day, the flowers and leaves are smudged with strokes of gold. The grasses are tall, lovely, laden on this day with drops of wetnesses.



We hike up the hill...



...toward the woods, full of hickory and oak, where the Ice Age trail is being extended...


We pick up the tools and get to work. Dig, grade, hack out the roots and stones.


The sun stays hidden until the very end. The air is slightly cool. It is a wonderful time to be outdoors.

Ed and I leave in the early afternoon. The sky is now dappled with clouds, the breezes are so sweet smelling that we are not surprised to see countless butterflies, bees and buzzing insects in search of the fresh and honest, as if they, too, had their market day to collect what they needed to get by.


We walk as if through an oil canvas, it is that beautiful... (allow me to just tinker gently with the photo...)


And of course, we finish the outing with ice cream. No, ice custard. I drive up to the window at Culvers apologetically. We’re in Ed’s old ’93 Geo and the driver side window has long stopped working.


...and perhaps I should mention, too, that the body of said Geo has rusted to the point where you can feel the breeze coming in from the underside. Ed tells me – I’ll stuff a rag and it’ll be fine, even in winter.

But he knows that the Geo is near its final months.  At some point the rust will be severe enough for the bottom to fall out. And so he, too, is looking for a replacement car.

He has better luck at finding what he likes. Which is why in the early evening we are out handing $600 over to a guy selling his old ’93 Escort. The car lived a good part of its life in the south. The rust is almost nonexistent. Ed thinks the engine looks good. I try not to notice that the bumper is taped on. With garishly red tape, presumably to match the red color of the car.

We haven’t decided which one of us will own or use this car. I no longer let myself remember that the seats on the Saab went up and down... I watch Ed search the Internet for tools to take the Escort door apart. So that it can open from the inside. Ah well. There is value in salvaging the old...

In the evening, my daughter and I attend to the final set up details at her apartment. It's dark by the time I am home again.

It is no surprise that supper, back at the condo, is a simple meal. Scrambled eggs, bagels, a salad. It is also no surprise that as the day draws to an end, my eyes refuse to stay open. I think about butterflies that now fill the prairie, but soon will be making the long trip south. To Mexico maybe. I post a photo of a Monarch -- remember? This guy, flitting around sweet smelling golden rod and wild asters...


...and give in to sleep.