We suspect there is a magic passage under our redwood because the garden gnome who guards the tree by day disappears at night. Important forest matters require his attention. Animals trapped in fire ravaged landscapes. Small fawns and mountain lions equally threatened, equally important to the health of a recovering ecosystem. He treats them all with the utmost care.
By daybreak, our gnome has returned. We see an article in the morning paper. Ten small pumas rescued. Feet wrapped in gauze socks. You wonder how they keep from biting through. Probably the influence of our gnome. His voice is hypnotic.
The show was conceived to unload MAGA hats. No one wears them anymore. Full hazmat suits are de rigueur.
Whatever, no one really cares. They’re all home watching the president.
A sprightly octogenarian, Donnie as his fans call him, bounds on stage. He’s surrounded by hats. Sean throws them in the air and tosses them to the audience. Donnie dramatically draws a slip of paper from a black box decorated in crux gammata, Celtic runes, exclamations, and dollar signs. For the price of a meal at a Trump restaurant, you can submit a question. But you won’t get an answer.
Books stacked to the ceiling; new, old, hard cover, all colors,
smelling of cinnamon, cloves, and musty spider dust.
A woman whirling like a cyclone, her arms extending.
She brushes the walls, her eyes shut.
She chooses. The overstuffed couch swallows her and she reads.
Sips of hot tea, cold tea, cider, coffee, one after another,
the light changing through the day from powdery gray to melancholy green,
at noon quite bright yellow and then white.
Straining, she escapes into history, imbibing the past.
Seeking perspective, finding a foundation to understand the moment.
Respite. She girds to return to earth.
Trying to cheer me up, a friend said, “Imagine a start-up selling a flying car. A guy named Tad, with genius hair and cargo shorts, runs things. Like Icharus, he falls to earth. Landing in an old growth forest close to the coast, he’s looking for a mechanic when Chloe comes along on a breath of pine and salt water.
“They marry. They’re happy, too, despite the devil on Tad’s shoulder teasing that he could have had the world. Tad pays that devil no mind. A new dad, now he’s flying by the seat of his pants.”
From a young age, she worked with her father on weekends at a community garden halfway between his home and her mother’s. The relationship developed slowly, the way carrots do. The woman did well in school and married, expecting a happily ever after.
On her son’s fifth birthday, her father collapsed while frosting a superhero cake. The cake was perfect. The party was not. Winter set in, hardening the ground.
In the spring, her mother dragged her daughter to the old garden plot. “It’s yours now.” Sifting the soil, she and her children planted seeds for future remembering.
Theodore grew up in a family that was asset rich, but empathy poor. He dreamed of escape. Filling panniers with snacks and casual clothes, he biked inland, towards Fresno, meaning to sample cappuccino in every coffeehouse in every California town of fewer than 500 people.
Ted, his road name, was shocked that people in some places hadn’t tasted espresso. In one cafe, they percolated coffee on a stovetop using Folgers regular grind from the can. A dark brown, it smelled burnt. The waitress said, “Folks here like this brand.” It broke his heart. He married her. Then, she changed his life.
The law degree did him no good. The teaching position tied her down. Free spirits, Alice and Steven couldn’t bring themselves to follow a conventional path any longer. They had some savings. They sold the condo and bought a shack in the woods.
After Eden, the arguments about money started. He found a side gig writing briefs. She asked her father for a book advance. If it hadn’t been for that, they might have starved. Settled in and surprised at the ways their paths diverged, each found happiness elsewhere. Ten years on, at the station, they didn’t recognize one another.
He takes stock of himself, answering questions about love, work, and money from an online survey. He’d expected something to be off. He’d hoped it wasn’t him. No such luck. Noting the site is ad-free, he trusts the advice.
Find your strengths, your weaknesses. Stop coasting. Clean up, make food and share it. Dig deep if you want to find fulfillment.
He’s at a loss. He goes to the pound. Gets a dog. A sweet pit bull, one whose ears were never clipped. She sleeps under his desk at work. Tummy up, vulnerable, a support animal. Co-workers stop to pat her.
There’s less light in the morning, more days when you pile on sweaters, two maybe three in lieu of turning up the thermostat. A chill in the air. Literally and figuratively. Bread dough rises slower than in summer. Tempers flare. Violence on the border, in the embassies, in my kitchen where I shout, “Liar, liar, pants on fire,” at the suggestion that we must come together today.
Why today? Why not two years ago? For what? So Lucy can pull the football away again? All of us, Charlie Browns. Decent folk. Taken advantage of once too often. Now go vote.
The trees stay green for a short time after the apples come in. The orchard smells like fall and looks like Christmas. Orbs, ranging the rainbow almost to blue, taste like tart flowing saliva sparks in your mouth. Fruit hangs on gnarly boughs and sometimes ripens to the soft stage because the leaves hide it, the two elements conspiring to stay joined, maybe for dark purposes.
By November, it’s time to end things. Maybe they have an argument. The tree strips naked in the space of less than a month. Bruised yellow apples, good for applesauce, wait for Hanukkah harvest.