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October Contradictions

This has been one of the loveliest autumns in recent memory. To enjoy 80-degree days after the fall equinox was a wonderful surprise. Diving off a dock into the waters of the Clark Fork on October 1st and relishing it was the rarest of treats. Flowers blooming, tomatoes ripening, peppers getting big enough to eat, lots of winter squash in early October allows a gardener to forget past years’ disappointments following the shock and awe of a killing August full-moon frost.

The colors this autumn have been outstanding. The russet hawthorn, brassy serviceberry, shimmering coins of aspen, orange apple leaves and red cherry foliage nearly blind the eye with beauty. Huckleberry are so crimson, they look like they are on fire. By the time of publication, larch gold will drip down the mountainsides as if poured slowly from a paint bucket.

Excited robins, their bags packed, on the move, fill the air with their calls. The large flocks seem to be travelling together. One rose from the big willow, groomed the recently dug potato patch, and in noisy unison departed south. Stellers jays are back, competing with the chickadees and nuthatches for sunflower seeds. The turkeys have learned to relish windfall apples and peck them to a sponge-like mess.

It has been a warm and dry fall for accomplishing all the chores imperative to rural life. Most animal life out here can grow a thicker pelt to prepare for winter; those of us who can’t must get cords of wood stacked under cover, have the propane tank filled, roofs repaired, chimneys cleaned, windows caulked and pipes insulated.

Does the wildlife chuckle, I wonder, to watch our constant activity of food production? The digging, hoeing, raking, planting, the weeding, mulching, watering. Finally after the picking, pulling, digging, lugging, whitetail are allowed into paradise. It took the old doe seven minutes after entering the yard to realize that even though the green metal posts remained, the nasty stinging wire was gone. (In comparison, it used to take our big lab seven days before he trusted that the hot wires were gone.) This morning the little fuzzy-horned buck, mom with twins, and the old doe are feasting on nasturtiums, sunflowers, cosmos, parsley and tiny green tomatoes.

One hundred and twenty pounds of spuds, 20 pounds of onions, 12 winter squash, 10 pounds of carrots, 8 braids of garlic, way too many pints of salsa for any two people to eat, freezer full of cider, salmon and chicken would normally give us a sense of smug security. This glorious autumn with bright days of good weather in which to accomplish all the fall chores would usually promote a positive outlook.

Instead, we have been hammered by the final acceptance that we have no control—no matter how full the freezers and woodshed—over the on-the-reef-wreck of our world. The Ship of State, piloted by lunatics, has run aground and the tide is going out. Incredibly, the political party founded upon fiscal responsibility and rights of the individual morphed into neo-con fantasy.

Bedazzled by one scandal after another, most people seemed to have become too numb to accept the irrefutable proof that the USA attacked another country on the administration’s lie that ‘weapons of mass destruction’ were present and the cynically delivered rumor of Al Qaeda influence. Could it get any worse than this?

Turns out it can get worse. Water is pouring into the engine room and the American public is bickering about the placement of the damn deck chairs. Throw the chairs overboard, pump the bilges, and chart a different course.

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Lou Springer Lou Springer lives in Heron when not out on a river somewhere.

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