“You can have talent, but if you cannot endure, if you cannot learn to work, and learn to work against your own worst tendencies and prejudices, if you cannot take the criticism of strangers, or the uncertainty, then you will not become a writer. PhD, MFA, self-taught — the only things you must have to become a writer are the stamina to continue and a wily, cagey heart in the face of extremity, failure, and success.”
“How to Write an Autobiographical Novel”
It’s November, suddenly. There’s electricity in the air, a sense the storm is coming, wires buzzing. Maybe the feeling builds with election day tomorrow. In Oregon, we vote at home and mail-in the ballot to be counted, or save a stamp by dropping it off in a designated box. I voted days ago. Campaigners trudge up the steep hill to knock on the door and set the dog barking while I’m trying to write. They leave garish oversize flyers wedged in the door that flutter away. It’s November, again.
A high pressure system will shove out the rain and bring nighttime temperatures down into the 20’s this week. Today I finally cut back the leggy dahlia, geranium and fuchsia foliage dangling from their pots on the deck. I cut the potted pink rose to stubble. Perhaps they will overwinter another year, if the weather is kind enough, perhaps not. I’ll cover them with old sheets against the frost and hope for the best.
Work done so many weeks ago comes full circle to fruit and seed.
I packed this blue moon in my suitcase. I bought it at a dusty little shop in a town overlooking the Sea of Cortez.
It is thick, but light, a crescent of wood. The face is covered with hammered silver milagros, tiny votive charms offered at shrines at the feet of saints. Here is an arm, and there a leg, hearts and horses, a tiny metal child. I hung it on a wall in my kitchen.
Milagro means “miracle.”
I think of the bedeviled refugees fleeing north through Mexico toward the armed soldiers we are sending to greet them. I do not think these are enough milagros.
Romanesco is a flowering vegetable, something like a cauliflower yet nothing like it. The head is spiked and spiraling, a natural fractal, each row a Fibonacci number. The weather must be cool, but not cold, damp, yet not wet, for the buds to thrive. I roasted the head whole, doused in olive oil and garlic, finished with an over-exuberant shower of bread crumbs. This is a vegetable.
The gourds and squashes on display at the farmer’s market are dismaying. There are ghost pumpkins and Cinderellas, butternuts, spaghettis, delicatas, and acorns. I’m not a fan. (No, that’s not strong enough. Since being forced to eat pureed squash as a child before being excused from the dinner table, I detest them all.) Every morning I drink a few ounces of carrot juice spiked with ginger and tumeric for my dose of orange vegetable. Last week I baked pumpkin bread studded with raisins plumped in cassis liqueur and ate a slice. Enough.
The tomato plants are withered haystacks with a last few hard green fruits. I’ll pick the stragglers in the next few days and spread them on a tray to see if they’ll ripen inside. I’m dubious; I doubt there is enough light left to muster a blush. I’ll use them as one would tomatillos, chopped and stewed for chili verde.
October is winding into the dark. There is morning frost on the roof and brilliant afternoon sunshine, but the days are leaping short. The honey locust relinquishes tiny fluttering leaves and the nastursiums shed their pea-size seeds. The season is over. What is not claimed, is left in the fields to the wind.