It must be close to sunset. I’m in the apple orchard behind a funky old house we lived in once way down Webber Canyon. The rickety old place came with the ranch hand job my husband and I worked for a time.
I’m wandering among the trees; their saw-tooth-edged leaves are so many shades of green, and so fresh and moist I want to stitch them into a robe and wear them…feel their freshness dampness against my parched skin and hear their shoooshing whispers as I move about. The trees are all hung with great apple orbs gleaming for joy: yellow, red, and green, some with blushes of peach or yellow on their sun sides.
In the west toward Boat Mountain, the sky is having some fun; it changes its color as often as it pleases; peach…to Wedgewood blue…to lavender…to gold…to pale mauve and seafoam green; each time I peer through the trees it shines a new treat. Shapes that must be clouds, but look more like plump setting hens…float slowly south, their edges barely tinged with the molten gold from the setting sun.
As I meander through the fruity grove, I greet the various trees by name; it’s an old orchard, and the names are a delight: Hello, Winter Banana, Wolf River…Granny Smith. Hey, McIntosh…Pippin… how are ya today? The scents that waft from them seem as though they’d be nourishing on their own, though I imagine that I’ll sink my teeth into one Golden Delicious sooner or later just to feel the snap, explore the textures of the skin and grainy flesh with my tongue, and revel in the sweet, tart juice as my teeth crunch it up.
The thought makes my whole body smile and feel as though it hears gentle chimes on the breeze, and the chimes make me feel lighter…and taller…and a bit apple–tree-ish, causing my arms to float out, up…like branches seeking the sun. Slight movements at the north end draw me toward a few young bucks in velvet foraging the windfall apples; some waging small battles for the largest ones, establishing a pecking order early on.
Glancing at the now soft aquamarine of the sky, I slowly become aware of Very Large Birds taking shape, perched upon the open and sturdy apple branches. Some stand as I walk by, and seem to watch me more with an eager curiosity and welcome.
And they’re splendid beyond belief! Dressed in every hue and color like Lords and Ladies at Court, their feathers imitate capes and waistcoats and gowns …and they are all wearing hats! I love birds with hats! Hats like crowns and peaks and spikes and caps; and they’re always paired with their colored feather-clothes to the most dramatic effects.
One has clothes of green and yellow, with a royal blue crown tipped in gold, another is blue and white with a purple hat…each one nicer than the last; mixed textures and feather sizes and shapes. Some feathers are the same shimmering metallics hummingbirds wear; the hues change and shiver as they turn, but even the more muted browns and greys look rich against the more vibrant and vivid shades. Many have feather necklaces around their throats, some sport polka-cravats or frilly ruffs. I wonder if they begin to grasp how gorgeous they are.
Their beauty makes me want to dance, so I high-step a little to the far-off chimes… and again reach my arms out, thinking I might just spin or turn a little and kerplop!..one as big as a hassock drops onto my left arm; I quickly arrange to hold it, and shift it astride one hip so I have one arm free, and then kerplop!…another one lands, and I arrange it similarly. They are soooo big, but light; I take turns carrying them around the orchard, depositing one on a branch, only for the next to clamber aboard. A few venture perching on my shoulders, and it tickles.
And they talk to me. The things they say are more by way of just passing the time of day, nothing of special importance or very profound, as one might expect of them. Now and then as I walk about, a smaller bird drops gently onto the crown of my head…and I have a hat to wear! I feel the smallest scritches from their clawed feet, but it’s mostly okay, and when it’s not, I pass near a convenient branch, incline my head, and my passenger hops off. Another soon takes its place, fluffety-plop, scritch, scritch. Another new hat for Stardust!
A different music reaches us, and we lazily head toward, the bird menagerie and I. In an open glade at the lower end of a gentle grassy slope a large gazebo comes into our view and there it seems a party is in progress. People, from toddlers on up, deer, a fox or two, dogs and cats and rabbits, along with more enormous birds dressed in their finery, are all laughing and talking together, enjoying an easy camaraderie. Musicians with all manner of odd stringed instruments play calm bluegrass-y tunes.
Eventually I remember that the truth is that I really don’t care for parties, and the humans by now seem almost…undesirable to me now. So I park my plump passengers on a nearby tree branch…and walk toward the orchard gate and out, turn and wave goodbye in thanks, then drift down the driveway and head south, out across the green and gold open fields, humming the sweet sounds of the orchard.
(cross-posted at My.fdl.com)