Foothill Fall By Elsinore Robinson Crowell

The Emerald Pool

Foothill Fall By Elsinore Robinson Crowell
1 HAVE an old brown coat. Within its warp and woof are threads of scarlet, blue and dusty gold. But closer than in woolen web are woven elements more precious far than brilliant threads, which make my shabby coat a garment rare. It is a tramping coat—not worn on measured streets nor for a festive show. But just for wandering, over a stout wool shirt, a battered skirt and hob nailed boots. So out we go, my coat and I.
The hills are good to see. Upon them the October light lies warm and wide. The slow winds rise and fall, fruity with blowing over ripened grass and seed. As pulsing fire, the yellow tar weed spreads abroad in glowing sheets of bloom, with fragrance like some old and mellowed spite. The grasses now are golden and the crisp stubble gleams against the resting earth. No longer are the scrub oaks dully green. Throughout their leaves they, too, are undershot with bronze. It is as if the amber light had entered as a winey life into the trees and fields until they pulse in one rich harmony.
I throw my old coat open wide as I go down the road. Deep in its folds the sunshine works its way. And through my veins as through insentient earth the light and color throb. Till I, who thought myself a thing apart from hill and wood—knowing so little of their strength and peace—become again a member of the freer world. I, too, share in the warmth and cheer, the joy of full maturity, the mystic promise of the pregnant soil. One with the heavy grain and fruitful trees, I lift my face up to the sun and sense the joy of natural toil well done.
* * * *
I reach the hill top. Below me lie the checkered fields—the ruddy fur
rows of the new ploughed lands—the tawniness of pasture lots. Along the creeks the willows hold their green, but upward, swift and sure as singing flames, the poplars flash in orange laced with light. And in and out, beneath the fallen leaves and moldering hay, along the road, beside the wall, the new grass pricks its way—a filigree of living emerald.
Behind me lift the mountains, wine and amethyst; their shadows flushed as in warm blooded sleep; with smoky mists that drift like yearning dreams across their violet folds.
Our life just now seems such a simple thing, enwrapt within this beauty, and content as I am warm and safe within my old brown coat.
Long Bill has piled his pumpkins. I can see their glow against his dingy shack beside the bed of "oregano" and chives. Around them tiny specks of red and tan whirl in a tumbling dance, not autumn leaves, but Long Bill's seven babies, fat and brown, and full as cheery as his pumpkin pile.
Pasquala cooks the egg plant for her man—egg plant and onions in tomato juice, with flavoring of "persa" and "basalico." Her chimney's near the road, half hidden in the Pride of India trees. The tang of oak-wood smoke and homely onion odors rise and creep into the folds of my rough clothes, until I'm sanctified with commonness.
I smell fresh mushrooms on a sudden gust of wind. They're coming fast after the first fall rain. Their scent is pungent—earthy—rich with the fatness of the teeming soil.
How good life is! I'm glad for simple joys—the daily beauty of this outflung robe of God—the heartening ties of sweaty work, warm evening food and dancing babies. For all the little voices that are set to sing against the weary wailing of a blundering world.
* * * *
A great cloud flings its arm across the sun and all the wine and warmth have left the wind. It's cold. The cottonwoods are moaning by the creek; their tortured branches twist against a livid sky. The dust is lashed before the rising gale, acrid and blinding. Confusion, darkness, wailing—silence —and the rain falls in sudden bitter gusts. Sharp earthy odors rise. The colors crumble, drenched in scudding gray. The rushing waters spurt about the stones. I wait beneath a hanging rock until the rain is gone. The empty clouds pass on, trailing their tattered mist. The brown earth crouches, spent and still, under the fading light.
Lonely and silent the sky—silent and lonely the world. Nor in all space a voice to answer when my soul cries questioning.
Only a Presence, brooding—infinite. Shabby my coat, dear God—and shabby my heart. After the hill top the weariness—ashes where once were flames.
But as I wait, hunger and doubting pass. Constant behind the mysteries I find Him and partake of potency. Not mine to know the secret of the brooding hills, nor why across them sway the mists of pain and sin. But in the homely tokens He has left on wall and path—the tiny burrowing owl who is
my friend—the thistle-down that catches on my sleeve—the spray of scarlet leaves—the childish things that I do understand—I know He keeps the trails, and I am comforted.
* * * *
Now as the sun slips down, once more there is a golden burst of light. I lie close to the freshened earth. The ripe seeds weave into my coats' warm wool. Above my face the grass stalks bend, frail fairy silhouettes against the sunset sky. From the vast cup of hills the light brims up; slowly at first, then with a rushing flame—topaz and opal, coral and jade—molten and spilling— flashing and glowing—mounting in splendor. Yearning and ecstacy, passion and prayer. Then poignant, sweet as waters bubbling, the fluting of the meadow lark's last song. And, in the graying glory, the first great star burns low.
Rising, I go home—my hands deep in the pockets of my coat, counting the treasures I have found along the way. Two acorn cups—a smooth blue stone —a ruddy oak gall on a twisted twig to put within my Chinese jar. And for to-morrow's pot-roast, leaves of bay. So I go back to set the bread, to mend a little shirt, to bring the slippers when the lamps are lit. And in the corner hang my old brown coat—redolent with tar weed, stained with grass and mold, but holding deep within its folds the garnered riches of my golden day.