Picking Olives

Blueberry blue. Violent purple. Parakeet green. Mucus gold. Squishy. Slish. And rotten.

9 am. Breakfast. Scrambled eggs. Lettuce. Coffee.

930am. She put her boots on. She takes a face from the ancient gallery, and she walks on down the hall.

945am. The sun is a jaundiced pearl the Goddess forgot to wear. The sky is a placid periwinkle squeezed of its clouds. The valley is a tree studded bowl of almond milk mist. The braying donkey cries for her lost lover, eating fallen apples off the muddy soil. The dogs go mad barking and howling. The birds serenade each other in unknown languages. A butterfly stops to tell me it’s okay. I divine the meaning of tranquility in her wingbeat, black and Persian orange. The honeybees buzz at my fingertips. A pair of praying mantes kneel at the grassy pew. Grasshoppers swing their jagged legs. The day is young.

10am. The nets are out. Bamboo bashers prop on crooked branches. Wicker baskets under arm. Thwack. The berries rain down. Thwack. A bit of olive leaf. Thwack. I’m awake.

10:30am. More of the same. For a moment I pause to gaze upon the Tuscan mountains. They don’t roll so much as stumble endlessly over each other like a coop of blind dromedary chickens. I can’t imagine my trip without them. I can’t imagine myself without them.

11am. Green tea with a spot of cream. Humming in the grass. Picking twigs and leaves that resemble flat slices of tiny green footballs. Sorting them from the olive pile. It takes forever but I’m in no rush.

1115am. The law of diminishing returns. I’ve sunk finally into the still of my body.

1130am. Gather the nets. Pour the olives. A fleeting drum beat of djembe cascade. The most satisfying sound.

1132am. Begin again. The next tree arches over the terrace and sops up the sunlight. You can see it in the olives. They’re big and pregnant with unpressed oil.

1140am. Dew cakes leather, soaks in the socks. My shoes are not built for this. Where are the wellingtons?

12pm. Is it lunch time yet?

1201pm. No. Not until the bell strikes one.

1230pm. Another tree stripped bare. Pruned to let the light in. Another schizophrenic drumbeat. Eight bins of technicolor olives.

1pm. Lunch time. The valley is quiet but for the morse code poo-tweet of birds.

3pm. The work day is over. Can I read my book now?

4pm. Yes, I can.

5pm. Weed the cat purrs in my lap. She’s keen on healing the aura of my sickly bones.

6pm. Blah blah blah. Donald Trump. Blah blah blah.

630pm. There’s an apricot in Phoenician robes stretched and smashed over the horizon. The sun is setting.

7pm. The moon is a golden crescent rising in the clouds. A bear claw rests in her pitted cradle. Breezes sweep through the fig and walnut valley. And still Doris the Donkey cries her bleating ode to loneliness. I go to the fence to feed her more apples. She looks at me until I cry. Those big hazel eyes pierce through my veil. She misses her love. I miss mine too.

8pm. Wine and quiet.

9pm. Back to my book.

10pm. Peter’s asleep, drowning warthogs in the down covers.

11pm. Zuska strolls the moonlit vineyard. But she looks like a wandering Mary Magdalene. Are we all waiting for the lamb?

1130pm. All but Juls and I have gone to bed. A long slender Italian vogue smolders in her hand. A rollie in mine.

12am. Shot glasses of Limoncello gleam in the lamp light. Juls and I are mushed. We talk of writing, of the Cosmic Quartet, of an Iranian street boy telling stories of a father he never had. We talk of character development. Of learning their quirks, faults, and motives. Of falling in love with them. And putting them through hell. Of pushing our creative limits. I can see fate smiling in the fading embers of the fireplace. Weed still snoozes in my lap. I’ve taken a shine to her. Her and Doris the Donkey.

1am. Where is the time going? Same place as the Limoncello. Same place as my tears. Same place as the literary charges of our conversation. Same place as the bear claw moon.

2am. The valley is thoroughly asleep. Only the stars swing in gentle frenzies. Juls retires to bed. I stay up to read until my eyes begin to cross.

230am. I’m in bed. I pull the covers over my head, turn my phone light on, and open my book once more. I’ve returned to childhood. That girl with the Harry Potter tome and a room of her own, comforter draped over her like a fort built for one. Heart the soft of silk. Heart the beat of a sleeping tambourine. Heart that sings in the realm of imagination. The Sound of Music meets Song of Myself.

3am. My eyes twitch again. I reread the last sentence. Twitch. Reread. Twitch. Okay… Ms. Curls. Meet Ms. Pillow. You’re both gentle lumps.

301am. Hope I dream of you tonight.

302am. Black. Crow bitten. Screech Owl. Who? Screech Owl. Who? SCREECH OWL. 

303am. Sleep.

Blueberry blue. Violent purple. Parakeet green. Mucus gold. Squishy. Slish. And rotten.

9am. Breakfast. Scrambled eggs and lettuce.


10am. The nets are out. Bamboo bashers prop on crooked branches. Wicker baskets under arm. Thwack. The berries rain down. Thwack. A bit of olive leaf. Thwack. I’m awake.


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