reflections from the southeast PA rural underground

Thursday, October 1, 2009


Finally! That most holy of all months has arrived. Autumn is born and re-born again! Many days having passed since that Sabbath day, the twenty first day of September. The day of the Equinox that, once lapsed, will ensure the sweetest of all seasons. The harvest will grace us all in the Northeast with its overwhelming Light, color, and beauty. Somewhere, in the annals of literature, the historian or the Transcendentalist scribe has written of the season that is now upon us as simply, "the most human of all seasons, in which the air is most clear, and clarity of thought, too, can flourish."

How and why else could a Quaker, a Roman Catholic (however lapsed he be), and a Seventh Day Adventist come to be gathered around southeastern Pennsylvania soil? How could they know that on this very day they'd be leaning in to harvest the golden and red bumpy-skinned, spaceship-shaped, Caribbean pepper pods? The seed of which had traveled thousands of miles from islands soaked with heavy, humid, sun-drenched air. Passed on from the hand of one West Indian woman to the farmer from the Keystone State at his stand in New York City. Women like Lydia who laughed again and again at my quips about her seasoned chicken's ability to give me good luck. Assuming she ever brought some of it for me to sample. "Da greeeeeeeeeeeen ones," she demanded in her north Trinidadian accent. "Bring me some of da green ones fah next Whidnesdaaaaay!," she repeated as I gawked at her gigantic turquoise-colored hoop earrings. Only half hearing her request. Big plastic accents to her strong chocolate colored face. She had me mesmerized as she walked away with her index finger pointing and shaking at me. That was the quality of the peppers. Magic. Even when grown far away from their place of origin.

Three interns, apprentices, workers, idealists yearning for that old Jeffersonian sense of the real and true that had been lost at the dawn of the virtual age. To capture again some old with the new. To find down in the soil and then up through fields and sky some sense of the magical quality in the real. Not somewhere else. Here. Now. Momentous and daily. Material culture was on the wane, was it not? Information abounded, did it not? We picked and picked. I could hear the whisper of centuries past yeoman plots riding by me on the fall breeze, the sun lighting all experience.

The bright green foliage of the pimientos shook and danced and prayed in waves. Their fruit softly knocking at each other like brushes on a snare head from a 60s ska tune as our hands delved in and around each plant to find and pluck their fruit. "Shh shh shh, clickle clickle, shuffle, shhh shhh." Ancestors of Lydia who may have passed awfully through Monticello while Thomas saved his precious vegetable seeds could now laugh with her while they sensed through time's eternal energy that "flave-ahhh," that "seeeasonin'" she'd mix into every dish she made.