Saturday, August 7, 2010

Here for Harvest

I'm in the Palouse, the land of hills so steep, some non-natives might call them mountains.  In other parts of this country, hills far less steep with just a few more trees on them are considered full-fledged ski-resorts.  Crazy to think of, if you're from here, but if you aren't it's far more crazy to watch the large machines race across those hills just this time a year, uncaring of angles.  When I was a young girl, I rode on a few combines across a few very steep hills, and held on for dear life to the single bar protecting me from that large fiercely twirling blade below the open air driver's cab.  Because of my allergies to dust and grain, I had to wear a bandana across my face to protect my breathing, but that wasn't nearly enough protection.  Not early enough.  There was something about harvest that got into my blood all those years ago.  So much that I kept writing about it, breathing it in and out and dreaming about it even when it tore up my chest to do it.  I love the raised dust across the horizon that fully tints the color of the sky and brightens the sun as it sets (and, hence, the so-named harvest moon).  I love the trucks on the road, downshifting in front of us, spraying their kernels of wheat behind them as they speed toward the elevators.  I love the glorious golden fields ripe and ready, the wheat tall and waving like the royalty it is as we drive past.  And the other fields, shorn of that golden wheat, with clear firm tracks machines systematically followed and the chaff just lying sadly on the ground, unnecessary, it's job--to hold the wheat up--finished.  As fast life, those stalks had, but a purposeful one.  I love watching it all.  From the relative safety of my own air-conditioned car, or my sister's house, I love them, yes (I'm not stupid enough to risk an asthma attack again), a degree-removed from the dust and dirt, but close enough to smell, to taste, to see.

It's another kind of harvest that I'm here for this month, but it's a happy boon that they're harvesting the fields while I'm here. My nephew, M, told his mother, RE, to remind me that it's harvest right now.  For me that means worrying about my allergies.  They are no small inconvenience.  A few years ago, Beve, RE and I went into the fields to watch the combines come down off a hill, and as the dust stirred up around those giant grasshoppers, my chest began to close.  It was NOT a pretty sight, I can tell you that.  I wasn't very rational about it either.  I just couldn't believe the next breath wouldn't be forthcoming.  I kept trying and trying, and that breath wouldn't come.  It was startling and disconcerting, but I was certain the next one would.  Beve and RE were much more clear thinkers that afternoon.  They knew what I couldn't understand, that I was in grave danger of really not being able to breath.  So they bundled me into a car and we drove away. And--oddly, really oddly--once I was out of that dust and grain, I began to be able to breath again.  Almost immediately.
Now, of course, the culmination of the season of Mom's life that I watch and wait now, just as farmers watch and wait for the harvest.  In a way, death is like harvest. The stalks that gives nourishment keeps plants alive in one fashion, but they're cut down to become something else. So too, Mom is just about ready to become something/someone else.  Someone new in a new body, in a new place.  I wonder if she's just become so allergic to life on this planet that she's unable to see, to even understand how badly this world is not working for her, how even her own body in this world has stopped working. And what she needs is the fresh air, the real, new, fresh air of heaven to breathe and clear her head and see and understand again.  This is why I'm in the Palouse, of course.  To see her 'harvest'--to be with her as she breathes the last big sighs of earth and takes the first large draught of heaven.  That's a harvest indeed.

It is odd that it's August.  Harvest.  Dad died during harvest.  His sister, also harvest. Beve's mom?  She barely made it into September (by a week).  There's just something about this time of year, I guess. At least for us. We love the harvest.

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