About two weeks ago, sometime near the beginning of November, there was a hard freeze here in Bloomington Indiana. Though a weekday when I certainly arise earlier usually than I would like, I woke especially early that day, due to an inability to fall back asleep at 4:30 AM. Rolling my eyes at the creaking of my knees and the growling of my stomach, I went through the motions until I had opened the back door to my house and noticed the twenty some degree chill scratching at my face. It gradually occured to me that I would be enduring this weather--- or be without coffee. My astonishment changed as I walked the street, to a grudging resentment that seems as much a part of winter as snow. Once I arrived at the coffee shop, bought my coffee, and settled into a seat with a great John McPhee book (see below), I began to think back to the beginning of the warm season which that morning, it seemed, had ended according to the measure I care most about: is it basically warm, or basically cold. It was cold now. And what I remembered, what crossed my mind, were dandelions on a Saturday morning, sometime back in earlyApril. Or was it the first of May?
The farmers market never really ends here in Bloomington Indiana. Everyone likes the progress of the salad days of late May and June, when progress seems as much a function of the rising sun as any choice we mortals might make. Wouldn't it have been great if stepping out of my house in early November had had that delicious sense of purpose that the dew dappled late spring brings the folk walking down to the farmers market. But even with the rattling of the Ash trees and clinging Oak leaves, the Farmers market will be found eventually indoors for the duration of winter. For its duration, greens and meat, cheese and nuts, herbs and cellared pommes, persimmon pulp (no problem in Indiana), and cold frame grown Mache. All winter long the procession of a certain brand of liberal principles and the people and personages they frequently embody giving a buck for a little heat and savor from the lands that surround us. And then, a breeze and a few shoots of green... its May day and Saucer Magnolias are opening their buds, I am walking beneath one such tree, down to the farmers market, for the first day of its second month back outside. April through November. Then winter market. But last spring the now bare Magnolias were purple and white, and the morris dancers clicked their sticks together like rams at the market. Everyone felt cheered by the sun and the remainder of the season, like a Friday night and a twenty dollar bill. I stumbled around the market, off balance with hellos, and remembering names. I bought a coffee, some mesclun mix, and walked around making a nuisance of myself, asking more questions than appropriate, having a gay old time. Before long I was walking home with a bag of vegetables and eggs, a few plants for the garden, and my last cup of coffee. While I walked a light rain began to fall, but I didn't care. Spring and rain are interchangable to me. I walked smelling the honeysuckle; finishing my coffee. Arriving at my house and inspired by my new plants I set the vegetables and eggs on my front stoop and prompty fell to my kness in the "grass" (Blooomington's laudable term for shorn weeds. One of the reasons I love this town is that thick funeral home turf looks so strange in even the most middle class neighborhood. On my steet, there is no grass.) I surveyed the yard enjoying for perhaps the thousandth time the fact that I could do whatever I wanted. It didn't matter one bit. As long as I didn't plant beneath the broke down Biscane over on the south side of the property I realized I could plant whatever I wanted, wherever. The rain tinkled, and dripped down my face. The temperature was neither hot nor cold. I looked down at my soaked pants, and my eyes were drawn to the violets and dandelions surrounding me. Bending low I peered at the little hairs on the leaves of the dandelions, laughing a little to myself at the trouble those hairs must cause a bug of a certain size and desire. The purple violets and sunshine color of the dandelions seemed to spill in a strangely purposeful splash of beauty. I went inside the house and returned with a bowl to collect greens and picked a bowl full. Slowly an awe filled me at this universe of tiny colors and beads of water bending splinters of light. I looked up and saw what seemed an endless plain or rainforest canopy, mabye twenty feet of my yard, towards the water shut off cover. That morning, on my wet knees in the rain, my body felt huge and the yard seemed an immense place of endless and beautiful complexity. And two weeks ago the enzymatic fire that began as the average temperature reached the middle sixties degrees farenheight in spring, sizzled and hissed to a head of steam from the vent pipes of my neighbors roof. The warm placental resilency of the warm season was over.