Fall Grapes

Even in California there’s a feeling of fall. Cicadas hum, dry leaves skip a little dance along the surface of the paved road when the breeze picks up. A dog walk at dusk.

Along with the apple orchards, a new sight during this harvest time…vineyards. I spot the overly ripened bunches of red grapes that rest on the sidewalk by the church’s mini vineyard rows. The bulldog sniffs and snorts at the rotting fruit. Visions of autumn, New England style, carry me and I float along in my evening stroll-dream. The dog’s tugs and forward nudges are constant but still, I drift to “Haaardvard Yaaard”…and all that.

My old home…the sounds…the smells…the dirt road packed tight beneath my steps, which are quiet, just sneaker treads skimming the solid earthen road path. I walk down the gradual hill…in my mind…into an autumn past. There, I smell the rotting apples, the “drops,” which are acrid and sharp. I follow the curve of the roadway — Van Dyke it’s called — which widens at the base of the hill, my parents home behind, at the top. My thighs relax for a moment after bracing against the downhill grade. Now my hamstrings begin to pull as I climb the next rise of road to where the nearby apple orchards will smell strongest…at the crest.

Slowly the meditation dissolves, the smell of apple is gone. I’m drawn back by another bunch of grapes that appear in the center of our path. The leaves from the vine, still attached to the rotting grape mound, have crisped, in a dry, dusty passage of time. The dog trots beside me, her ears flapping slightly like a rabbit’s, her nails, click, click, clicking loudly on the pavement. Find the smells and sounds that are here…right now. Sense fully this autumn night that envelops me…a new memory built…in California.

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