Thursday, October 11, 2007

Pepper Prayer

Harvesting peppers this morning beneath fall’s grey-cloaked sky, I noticed the silver water on the green fruits and the way it pooled cold on my skin as I plucked each pepper from the vine. I noticed how the faded tones of the sky brightened the red leaves of a maple on the edge of the field. I noticed the grey everywhere, weaving itself around the day, leaving threads of mist on the sedge grass and pigweed and eggplants. It was dark and shadowed in the field this morning, and I noticed how the absence of light is an illumination of its own. The clouds brought out the red in the maple tree and the tomatoes strung along the vine, in the skins of peppers and the plaid of Erik’s shirt. Colors blossomed everywhere out of the field: the gloss of a yellow pepper, the deep orange of Johanna’s sweater, the green stripes on my boots, the brown seeds heads of foxtail millet.

This morning in the peppers I noticed the grey sky, the way it held everything so gently: the carpet of red leaves on the ground and the shape of the truck parked in the dirt, the geometrical edges of the field, the yellow peppers, the water on the ribs of the fruit, the dead tomato plants blackening the soil. This morning in the peppers the world was so grey it burnt and I wanted to keep those people and that harvest close to me, to keep moving down those beds forever, listening to my muscles bending and reaching. What I’m trying to say is that this morning in the field there was enough beauty for me for a life time.

This morning in the peppers I loved the sky that washed the fields with a shade of grey so old and whole it rubbed off on everything it touches. I loved the shape of it, and everything it held – the black wings of migrating geese and the cuts of lightning and the moisture that weeps out of it and soaks the earth and makes things grow. It was a cold, quiet morning in the peppers. We played tomato baseball and talked about everything we want to can and dry. Every time I bent over to put a pepper in my bucket I noticed the water hanging on the fruit and I thought about the way a drop of water from a hard night rain will last into morning, will sing its cold song into the hands that come near it. I loved the truck this morning, parked on a carpet of orange maple leaves, its familiar bed filled with crates of peppers and tomatoes. I loved the names of the fruits I was harvesting, and my body moving, and the way our voices carried across the field and the way the sky held it all and kept us with its infinite greyness. I loved the weight of the peppers in my hand, the deep purple of eggplants, the smoky blue of the beds of cabbages on the edges of the field. How do you describe the blue of a cabbage plant? Such a slate-hard, rocky blue. I loved those cabbages this morning, and I loved the smell of rot and dirt and rain and my hand around a weathered tomato stake as I raised my arms to blast a rotten red fruit into the air. I loved the wheels of flesh that flew into the sky like fireworks, and the way my body moved in my rain boots and my vest.

This morning harvesting peppers there was the water and the plants at the end of their lives, there were dear friends who speak the language of tractors and seeds, a language of wonder that I am slowly starting to learn, there were my hands and the muscles in my arms and the familiar body of the truck, there was a maple tree so red it made a mark on the field, there was the shape of the peppers and the scent of rain and the grey sky over everything, the feathered grey sky, old as bone, rock honest, the grey sky spreading itself over the trees and the geese and the peppers and us.

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