Monday, October 28:
We brought up the pumpkins and summer squash to cure in the yard where we can cover them at night from the black frosts. The squash vines, which had run amok until they covered the whole garden, we pulled up and piled in windrows to be fed to the pigs over the next couple of weeks; frost burns those on top, but the vines below are still leafy and the pigs devour them. The beans were pulled and the last ten gallons or so are waiting to be canned; the bean plants, like the squash, are windrowed for pig fodder. Soon the gardens will be empty except for the low tunnels, long hoops of plastic sheltering carrots, lettuce, spinach and beets, and the straw-mulched rows hiding late-planted garlic.
We buried Eric on Tuesday. After the pine wood coffin was placed over the grave, Mike filled shots with Jim Beam and toasts were drunk before the men secured the coffin lid with fifty ten-penny nails, the hammer going around the circle like a loving cup to friends, brothers, sons. Mike held up the youngest son, shielding the child’s face from the hammer’s claw. “Careful, Clemmie,” instructed a waiting five-year-old. The wall of men in suits surrounded the grave like a posse, concentrated, purposeful.
There is that about these people makes death transparent, as though they can see through it to something on the other side. It is related, somehow, to the cold, black, star-pierced mornings when we tramp down the field leaving a path of deeper darkness in the frost, to break ice in the stock tank and lead the cows up to the barn for milking. It is stepping out into what is inhospitable, even hostile, to fill our hands with warm, nourishing life.