The message of spring is the light after many dark months of winter, curtains not thick enough to block the powerful rays of the cool morning sun from penetrating into their rooms and waking the girls, each in her bed, across the field that separates their houses. The field is wet and swampy and the dark girl’s father is soon to be spotted on his tractor out there, kid brother dangerously dangling on one side, sowing the seeds for whatever crop will be grown on the field that year. Often just grass for hay for the cows. Whatever the girls do, whether it be bicycling to school or playing, it takes place in an orb of color and light.

In early summer lilac shrubs cascade over the hedges that line the field drugging the girls with their abundance and fragrance. The girls transform into fairies fluttering towards midsummer in their cotton dresses. For days they pluck and pluck and pluck as many branches of purple and white as they want, filling vases in their rooms and showering the mother of the light girl with large bunches for every room. The dark one lives on a farm that marks the beginning of the countryside and the light one in the very last house on the town side, with the field in between farm and recently built yellow brick house. Though it’s forbidden to trample the crops they drag a blanket into the middle of an oat field and lie on their backs watching the great cloud schooners sail by overhead. The dark one shows the blood-stained sanitary napkin in her panties and the light one is jealous in her eagerness to grow up. In August, after harvest, the dark one’s dad makes a bonfire in the middle of the field and spends an afternoon burning farm and garden waste. The girls stare into the crackling flames and throw sticks into the fire, held captive by the hypnotic flickering and great force of nature that lives in every flame. Then they run off to fill their nets with dark purple plums, large as eggs, and bite into the succulence, juice running down their chins. Or lose themselves in the apple orchard, wild and neglected, where each tree bears a different variety of apple spanning the spectrum from white and sweet, over yellow and tangy and green and tart and orange and bitter and pink and red to the almost brown ones only suitable for cooking. The trees are old and it’s easy to climb their gnarled branches. The girls sit, each in her elbow, discussing matters of great importance on which their different views don’t separate them anymore than does the field.

Towards the back of the orchard is the hedge of hazel that the girls forget about the rest of the year, but rediscover each autumn, the nuts good to eat even when unripe though it takes some peeling. Unlike the bitter ones on the walnut tree that marks the beginning and dwarfs the double row of trees lining the driveway that leads up to the farm. A white stone nestles in a tuft of grass, with the house number that makes no sense painted on it in black. When the walnuts finally ripen and the storms rage they stand in the rain under the tree holding large potlids above their dark and light heads as the nuts hail down in great numbers. They crack away with a stone at the pitted shells and eat their fill of tiny brain halves with brown fingers. Later they shake down the full harvest with long poles and gather the nuts in shallow baskets and line them up to dry till Christmas along the wall of an unused attic room next to the room in which they curate and display their collection of pottery and crockery shards that they find in the furrows after each plowing of the field.

Always they walk or run across the field to see each other, it is shorter than going by paved road and driveway. They wait for each other and call out goodnight before each goes into her house. On starless winter nights, when it is dark and cold, they walk each other home across frozen furrows of black hard earth powdered with snow, the field an ocean of towering churning peaks and valleys that can cut fingers, twist an ankle or knock a hole in a head. And they keep walking each other home, back and forth and back and forth, neither one wanting the other to be the last to traverse alone.


May 8, 2020