in cloud-light (with thanks to Les Murray)


Overcast, cloudy, a good day to pick gooseberries (as John did), and then to sit in the cool kitchen to top and tail enough for jam, for a fool. (Every pun intended.) To pick broad beans and to sit (as I did) to shell them and inhale that earthy odour. Those, with a head of garlic and some kale, will be dinner tonight, with a small steak on the barbecue, and maybe even the first tomatoes, 3 Black Plums, that have ripened on the upper deck. These are the days. They go on for months, vegetables ripening, berries ready to pick, the failures forgotten as you reach into the bean plants to find yet another big pod filled with silken beans.

…beans upright like lecturing, outstretched like blessing fingers
in the incident light, and more still, oblique to your notice
that the noon glare or cloud-light or afternoon slants will uncover

till you ask yourself Could I have overlooked so many, or
do they form in an hour? unfolding into reality
like templates for subtly broad grins, like unique caught expressions,

like edible meanings, each sealed around with a string
and affixed to its moment, an unceasing colloquial assembly,
the portly, the stiff, and those lolling in pointed green slippers …

—from “The Broad Bean Sermon”, by Les Murray

kale and garlic

“The moon is just as bright as in my homeland”

The eerie dark pink sun rising over Mt. Hallowell as we swim early mornings. The moon, almost the same colour in the dark trees, glowing as it passes the house. Smoke haze everywhere, the taste of it bitter at the back of the throat. My brother and his wife evacuated from their home in the Nazko valley. Always a mild anxiety as we look around, wonder about new fires, though the smoke comes from the Interior. No rain for weeks, none is forecast. I left laundry out for two days and when it came in, it smelled of fire, a dusting of fine grey particulate on the linen sheets.

But there are things to celebrate. John lifted the garlic and sorted it, letting it dry for a few days in a safe place (bears!), and then tying it to the rafters in the woodshed to cure for the winter. Next year I’ll plant more (I always say this) but I’m grateful for the beautiful heads of Red Russian, White Italian, and the gorgeous purple striped Metechi, from Kazakhstan.


I look forward to rain. We all do. And good news from the Nazko valley. In the meantime, I think of Du Fu and his brothers, though I know mine are safe:

Tonight we start the season of White Dew,
The moon is just as bright as in my homeland.
My brothers are spread all throughout the land,
No home to ask if they are living or dead.
The letters we send always go astray…


On these hot days, as we wait for rain, haunt the news reports of fires and evacuations (my brother in the Nazko Valley, waiting…), I like the mornings best. There’s still a cool thread in the air, still a memory of dew. I try to do my outdoor chores by 11 or so because otherwise it’s too warm to be out in the sun. This morning, I thought of Billy Collins and his poem about morning:

Why do we bother with the rest of the day,
the swale of the afternoon,
the sudden dip into evening,

then night with his notorious perfumes,
his many-pointed stars?
I tried to make a record of as many moments as I could. The dragonfly on the tip of a sweet-pea cane:
My husband coming out of the garden with an armload of garlic:
john and metechi garlic
And a pile of the beautiful white Italian garlic already gathered:
white garlic
And always the lilies, full and buoyant in sunlight:
morning lilies
We’ve been swimming around 8, before the sun even comes over the mountain, and the lake is green and still. This morning we looked at all the tracks leading to the water’s edge: small prints of raccoons, many crows, ducks coming in and out of the water, and then the heavy tracks of elk. Of course! The creeks up the mountain must be dry and the local herd comes down to drink after the swimmers have all gone home. Do they enter the lake and stand up to their bellies in cool water? Do they swim by moonlight and in the light of those many-pointed stars? I wonder.
For dinner tonight? Something with that fresh garlic. And for dessert? John’s out picking raspberries now, the last of the crimson Willamettes, sweet with sunlight. And look who else is waiting for rain!
morning frog