Chuck rolled in at the moment when fall peaked. I call it just exactly the right time for him to prune the prickle berry hedge out front, clarifying as he did so the elegant three steps as it opened to reveal the front walk. Because of the humidity and not the heat I had neglected the job until you almost didn’t notice the steps. Earlier a person who had stopped at our yard sale said, first thing, Your house really has curb appeal. I am not joking when I say that really made me feel proud, almost as if our house and everything in it and of it were on television.
And yet it is such a tiny part of the season’s opening. There’s Larry Malone to campaign for as he runs for the City Council and the vegetable and flower beds to clean up, the bridge games to play, the quilts to launder and the chard and kale to cut wash and freeze, the college student and his needs, and Fiona to get to her dance class, and Twelfth Night and Tintern Abbey to read and THINK about. There is the Professor running to class and the firefighter saving lives. Of course we all know this won’t last forever, but at the moment every day’s accomplishments seem crucial to survival.It is all the old-fashioned rush to prepare for winter.
Right now the sun is at its most golden moment. From the south today at 1:30 it comes in low and slanted and there is something in the position that does create gold. When it happens like this in the summer in California, the Golden Gate Bridge is the result. Here, it has to happen sometime in the middle of the solstice, spring or fall, and then it glistens on the still green leaves of the pear tree. making it look as if it had just survived another rain storm. Behind the massed begonias the Cotoneaster’s small leaves glisten too, but in the bush itself red berries reflect the color of the flowers; and I think GOLD. We take the colors as they come and try to be good sports about it. But the maples do not seem to be turning this year for a reason of their own. I have been told the reason for this, but I can’t seem to get it straight. It is either too wet at some particular time or not wet enough. They drop heavily, I think, the fragile green and yellow leaves that have hung on to their branches beyond their time and when a sharp gust of wind comes along they drop. If Chuck stays long enough he’ll get to rake, get himself back in a northeastern mood after a few years in Utah.
But I’ve hardly mentioned the pears and all the excitement they have caused. The crop was very heavy, particularly the Bosc and a branch had to be propped. Bags of moth balls protected them from the squirrels. A weird little bug invaded almost every pear leaving something like a small, hard stick where it had entered. Left long enough this stick turned the pear rotten, but mostly we were too quick for it. Jim had for a long time been waiting to pick and preserve in a way determined by him. He wished to make first pear butter and second pear brandy (or something that could be defined as brandy if you didn’t demand too much of your taste buds.) We peeled and cut up the pears and put them in the slow cooker for what seemed like days. We put in a cinnamon stick and some sugar and eventually it turned a little brown and thick. This job was the source of one of our many culinary arguments, so memorable because of the long time they persisted in the cooking. I said such cooking was going to cause the flavors to meld in some unpleasantly powerful way. And they said no it wouldn’t. They turned out to be right, although it took at least two pecks of pears to make a quart of butter. Today I put my pride in my pocket and dared to give it a try, and as they say in the Bible, it was good.
The other pear task could have been riskier. Betsy and Jim used the bigger, softer pears, I don’t know what kind, and filled two gallon jars with sliced pears, and then filled up the jars with vodka. The liquid is clear, as pear liquid should be, the flavor is light and delicate while at the same time having the kick of slivovitz.There’s a christmas secret in the procedure, but all I’m at liberty to say is that there are some pretty lucky people out there.
I have barely touched the fall scene here. I may have to go on and on just to talk about perennials. Later.