Beau walks with me to the field. We visit chickens and the garden. I collect one egg, a handful of tomatoes just beginning to turn, and a deep purple pepper. As I finger them in my coat pocket, the pepper is cool, the tomatoes are sun-warm, and the egg is downright toasty. An egg straight from the chicken is dry and nearly too warm to hold comfortably.
This October afternoon is quite still. Yesterday I hung my hammock between the gum tree and the pine, and there I recline now, gingerly keeping my coat pocket with egg/tomatoes/pepper to the side. The two dogs wrestle, and Beau yips and growls. He is six pounds and Ned is sixty, but Beau is top dog. Sometimes he must resort to chewing on Ned's leg to prove it. Usually Ned lies supinely in the grass and allows Beau to mangle his neck. Today it is the only sound in the field.
The ascending wagon spokes of tree limbs above me dwindle into the periwinkle blue sky. About half the leaves remain, shimmering and wiggling to be free. The ones up high are alight with late afternoon sun, as are the pine needles; they shine like morning spiders' webs. But the lower branches, already in deep shade (as am I) are dark. Each one hides a shadow.
Adam burned a great pile of brush this morning. The crepe myrtle stump from last fall still dominates each burn we do. Today it sits upright among the ashes like an idol. Only a few thick pine limbs surround it, smoldering. Smoke swirls upward into the pecan trees and sideways across the pasture. It is autumn's smell.
Beau sees me in the hammock at last and comes running. I lift him up, and he collapses on my stomach and chest, exhausted from play. He's smiling. He enjoys the view for a while, resting his chin on the hammock edge. He's as tall as Ned at last. Satisfied now that Beau will not wiggle through the fence and drift into the road, I place a hand on his back, lay my head against the hammock, and close my eyes. Peace.
Why is there an instant when one knows one must sit up, return to the house, and do things? The instant came, I sat up, thrust my feet back into my farm boots, and strode to the gate. October is nearly over, my favorite month. But it is never cool enough, long enough, or late enough. I want something closer to winter, a month to make me shiver and wish for gloves. Good-bye, October. I'm glad we had this afternoon together before you left.