After surrendering momentarily to frost, Bai Juyi and Tu Fu came back up from the 6 inch plants I left. Li Bai succumbed. Li Ho — who grows closer to a sun-warmed wall — has been growing this whole time, but tonight the temps will be below freezing and tomorrow as well, and then? I’m not fighting it any more.
I just went out to tell them goodbye and thank them for everything. They didn’t leave me empty-handed, either. I have 43 beans for next year (yes, I counted them). Though some don’t seem fully matured, I’m grateful for all the green beans of the summer, these beautiful purple and black beans for next year, and the company my beans gave me during this strange year.
My Big White Dog is sitting beside me, affecting to be unperturbed by the fact that we’re all out of rawhide pencils until Tuesday. But I know her and she KNOWS morning is NOT the time for rawhide “slabs” or whatever you would call them. “Seriously, Martha. Don’t you know what time it is?”
These things matter to a livestock guardian dog.
She REALLY likes taking these outside and burying them. She also likes using them to play keep-away with Teddy. The yard is littered with rawhide which I often pick up (if it’s clean enough) and put back in the bag… Seriously, what OTHER advantage is there in having opposable thumbs?
Other than the prediction that it will freeze tonight and tomorrow, there seems to be nothing too harrowing on the horizon (but who ever knows?) Which reminds me that some readers have asked about the beans.
We’ve had several hot days in a row so the beans are doing well. But here’s a fable for our time.
During the snow storm almost three weeks ago now, one of the larger pods got knocked to the ground. I found it and thought, “Well, there are bound to be casualties.” I left it. A few days ago I noticed it had turned yellow which is what these pods do when the beans are ripe. I thought that was pretty amazing. I’d figured the pod would slowly rot and melt into the ground. I picked it up and found it was completely dry. Huh? I opened it and inside were two very large, very viable beans and one rotten one.
Otherwise, I have already harvested a few ripe pods. The beans are larger than the beans from two years ago. I won’t know until next year if that is a good thing or not, but here they are.
I will probably cover them tonight and tomorrow. Much as I love winter, I’m loath to let my beans surrender.
Because the fabled bean pod dropped from Tu Fu, I’ll share one of his poems.
Autumn Thoughs, I Tu Fu
Jade frost bites the maple trees and Wu Mountain and Wu Gorge breathe out dark fear as river waves rise up to the sky and dark wind-clouds touch ground by a frontier fortress. The chrysanthemums have twice bloomed tears of other days, When I moor my lonely boat my heart longs for my old garden. The need for winter clothes hurries scissors and bamboo rulers. White Emperor City looms over the rushed sound of clothes beaten at dusk.
Featured image: “Are you going to take MY picture, Martha?” “I will, little guy. Look at me.”
From the joints where leaves broke or froze, new vines are emerging ALREADY. I love these beans.
MOON, RAIN, RIVERBANK Tu Fu
Rain road through, now the autumn night is clear The water wears a patina of gold and carries a bright jade star. Heavenly River runs clear and pure, as gently as before.
Sunset buries the mountains in shadow. A mirror floats in the deep green void, its light reflecting the cold, wet dusk, dew glistening, freezing on the flowers.
FALL RIVER SONG Li Bai
On Old River Mountain A huge boulder swept clean by the blue winds of Heaven
where they have written in an alphabet of moss an ancient song.
NIGHT SNOW Bai Juyi
I was surprised my quilt and pillow were cold, I see that now the window’s bright again. Deep in the night, I know the snow is thick, I sometimes hear the sound as bamboo snaps.
WALKING THROUGH SOUTH MOUNTAIN FIELDS Li Ho
The autumn wilds bright, Autumn wind white. Pool-water deep and clear, Insects whining, Clouds rise from rocks, On moss-grown mountains. cold reds weeping dew, Colour of graceful crying.
Wilderness fields in October — Forks of rice. Torpid fireflies, flying low, Start across dike-paths. Water flows from veins of rocks, Springs drip on sand. Ghost-lanterns like lacquer lamps Lighting up pine-flowers.
It’s pretty woodsy in my backyard at the moment. I went out yesterday with my trusty branch saw to reconnoiter and decided it was way too dangerous for me to approach. How do I know but what one little handsawable branch isn’t holding up the universe? I don’t. I said, “Teddy get out from under there,” and came back inside.
Today I’m taking the day off. Yesterday, I spent hours cleaning the remnants of the snowpocalypse from the garden part of my yard. I had a long chat with the beans, explaining that I was sorry a bunch of their leaves were hanging there near death from being weighted down by a wet and frozen bed sheet. I then told them the story of Faith, the Indomitable Aussie Pumpkin who came into the world this time last year and STILL grew to be almost 10 inches in diameter. “Buck up, Poets,” I said. “It was just a snowpocalypse. Not the end of the world.”
The tomatoes are just going, “Well THAT was different.”
Meanwhile, everything that’s not broken looks like nothing happened, like summer was never interrupted, and now it’s business as usual.
Today my Facebook memories brought a photo of me with a woman who was one of my dearest friends for thirty years. She was my boss at the first teaching job I had in San Diego, and our relationship evolved from a not especially great boss/employee relationship to real friendship. She was an extraordinarily talented painter, and some of her paints are in my “studio”. I don’t use them. I do use her palette knife and some of her brushes. In the paint box, in the colors she used, and even in the way the brushes are “worn,” I see Sally, her way of painting and, well, her. It’s very lovely. The featured photo is us together at her house, Thanksgiving 1997.
The storm came with a bang, so many bangs that Bear was terrified, and Teddy hid between my bed and the wall. Thunder snow can be cool, but this wasn’t. Between the smoke from the California fires and the incoming storm the day got so dark that my motion sensor lights in back lit up as I moved around in the yard covering plants That chore ended up taking most of the day and was a feat of major engineering. Thursday or Friday we’ll find out if it works.
The temps dropped 40 degrees in the space of two hours, and now I’m sitting here in wool socks, wool base layer and sweat shirt just like it was February or something. The snow is falling straight down, so wet and heavy it thinks it’s rain. So far the streets and lawns do, too. “Free water,” said my friend’s husband.
Tomorrow we’re expecting a high just above freezing, enough for me to uncover what I can, dry it out, and do it again.
You see, the problem is that I really love those beans. The plum tomatoes are starting to ripen and are very beautiful. Maybe nothing will make it. I know that I don’t really have much of a problem, and I wish I could send the moisture and the temps to California.
The best part of the day was when about a hundred sandhill cranes flew over me, calling to each other and filling the sky. I took it as a blessing. Maybe tomorrow Bear and I can go out where we can visit them.
Yesterday, with four nights of hard freeze in the forecast and possibly a foot of snow, yes, so early in the year, I got out every conceivable thing I could use to cover my 12 foot Scarlet Emperor Beans. I rehearsed wrapping queen sized sheets around them then (it took 2) and then climbing on a ladder to drop another over the top. It was doable but not easy and took 30 minutes. That’s nuts. A person can cover tomatoes, but 12 foot beans??? Twice as tall as the person hoping to cover them??? Four nights? I piled all the possible covers up on the dryer by the back door, ready.
I cut back the beans to six feet and brought the biggest bean pods inside hoping they’d ripen in a window. There aren’t many blossoms any more. The beans are working toward seed making. They know what season it is.
Goethe wrote about how often he’d gone to bed with a problem he couldn’t work out and woke up with the answer. That’s happened to me a lot of times and it happened again.
It hit me that it’s human nature to fight against change, a perceived enemy, for those we love, for what we perceive as justice. A major freeze and snowstorm in early September?
“Dammit, Nature!!!!! IT’S JUST NOT RIGHT!!!! Those beans deserve another 3 weeks of life and a chance to mature a couple more pods! I’m going stand against the storm and protect my beans!! Bean lives matter, Mother Nature, you bully!!!!“
“OK Sweet Cheeks. You have seven large, perfect and beautiful beans for next year. You know perfectly well that you don’t have space for more than five. I have to do what I have to do, and you know that.”
“Evanescent flowers I cannot bear to cut.” Li Ho, “The Grave of Little Su”
We’ll see if Li Bai, Tu Fu, Li Ho and Bai Juyi, the Scarlet Emperor Beans make it through the storm. And, if they don’t? They all wrote beautifully about death, and here I am, a thousand years later, naming beans after them and quoting their poetry. Chances are very good I will name next years beans after them again. They’ve been good beans and good company in this strange summer.