July 28, 2013

North Cairn: A trace of September in summer

I have harvested precisely four wild raspberries.

It might sound like a pathetic showing but that represents a 400 percent increase over last summer, when whatever fruit was to be gotten was plucked by birds, small mammals and my landlord -- who, of course, knew where they could be found on his own property and happened to be in town during the height of the season. He was here to make minor repairs to the deck, as I recall, and because the berries grow not far from the steps down into the yard, he was able to accomplish two jobs at once -- one a little sweeter than the other.

In fairness, it should be mentioned that when I signed my lease, he had pointed out, generally, where I could expect to find the low bushes, so he wasn't trying to hoard the harvest for himself. But I had my mind on other things, was consumed by moving and settling in strange surroundings, so wild red raspberries weren't the first thing on my mind.

I probably would have missed them altogether again this year, except that a cashier at a local grocery store announced to me, as he was ringing through my produce and came upon pint boxes of fruit, that he had a banner harvest of blackberries this year. He wouldn't have to purchase them for a few weeks, and that seemed to him a savings worth lording over the rest of us coupon-toting consumers.

I thought so, too. I was impressed enough to make a point of checking around the space in which raspberries have established themselves among the boulders and briar in the small clearing in the woods where I live. I think the wildlife have again this summer just about wiped out the crop on this property, but I will always have the reminder of those four sweet berries to prove that I didn't miss out entirely.

It is only the hind end of July but I have been feeling fall straining at the bit already -- in spite of the high humidity and blistering temperatures of the last few weeks. I installed a couple of window air conditioners in the little cabin where I live -- an anomaly to the overall rugged appearance of things, I know -- and on the hottest days I have retreated like a bear deep into the cave of one room in which it is possible to generate an Arctic feeling if the heat becomes Saharan.

I have spent a lot of time in that room during this month, but on recent mornings and evenings I have returned to my old habit of perching in front of the big wall of windows on the A-frame, in a wing chair positioned next to the wood stove stoked and ready to go when conditions demand it.

I look out into the forest, the impenetrable trees a mystery as large as life, though what I know -- that my reliable neighbors are within earshot and short walking distance -- is comfort enough in the canopy. Though I could not tell you which direction to take through the trees to reach human contact, I am reassured to know you could easily shout and summon help, for July has brought its limited era of heat so oppressive it seems it could crush any creature requiring a steady supply of water to survive.

But now, at month's end, the sun already seems not quite as burning, the breezes indolent as Indian summer, the early and late sun of these days casting a light more like October than mid-summer.

(Continued on page 2)

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