A Safe Distance

Life inside a global pandemic is not something I ever gave thought to. Social distancing? Now under near quarantine conditions, six feet seems hardly enough distance to keep from complete strangers potentially bearing unknown dangers and perils. So when I saw a car about to pull into our driveway as I sat working on a project at the table on our deck I decided to pack up and quickly head for the sliding glass door into the house. Travelling slowly, the black four door sedan rolled toward our driveway, stopping and parking off the side of the road.  A tall young man in a red sweatshirt and baggy, black pants got out and walked around the car into the woods opposite our driveway.  As he began walking up the hill into the woods  I watched from our dining room window for a while and then realized a small woman had joined him as he led the way. I turned my attention to my project, now at our dining room table, but within a few minutes I noticed the two travelers walking back down the hill to their car. Beginning again with my work I saw a black car pass by our sliding glass door and stop near our well faucet. I opened the deck’s slider door, that I was kept safely behind, and stuck my head out, realizing that the black car was the same one that had just stopped alongside the road in front of our house. A tall man of about 30 wearing the same red sweatshirt and baggy, black pants stood up out of the car. “Can I help you?” I shouted across to him.  “Ah, yeah, can I get some water?” he shouted back as he fidgeted with the small cap of a plastic water bottle. “This guy at the corner needs some water for his radiator.”  “Oh,” I replied, taking it all in, “Okay the well is right there, go ahead and get some water.” “Oh, okay, thanks,” the man stammered. I closed the door again but not before seeing the small woman as she looked toward the driver’s side from the front passenger’s seat. I turned my attention once again to my project and when next I looked the car was turning north out of our driveway.

Late last summer a tall, lean and bedraggled man walked slowly up our driveway one morning and caught my daughter on the deck. Stopping a good distance from our house he stood and in a tone meant purposely not to be threatening yelled, “Can I use your phone? I’m lost.”  My daughter replied “yes, ” and got the phone for him. He made several calls looking for someone to help him. From what he spoke into the phone we pieced together that his girlfriend, and then his friends, had left him in the woods sometime in the night.  Sustaining many cuts and minor lashes from briars and brambles, he had walked all night through the woods and, moments before, stumbled down the hill onto our road opposite our house. Finally after calling his father and pleading with him he brought the phone back to us on the deck.  Apparently rejected, he asked for directions to the nearest gas station and my daughter sent him walking north.

One afternoon, about a year before, my daughter and I were in the yard rubbing oil into the legs and feet of our chickens who had a bad leg mite infestation when a young, tall man came walking up our drive in need of water. Covered in oil and chicken feathers, with my vinyl gloved hands I motioned to our well faucet up the driveway from which he could draw water. Bottle filled, he thanked us and walked back down our drive and out onto the road headed north.

Now on the morning after the red sweatshirted man in the black car came to our house asking for water I see all three men as the same man.  Our house a way station to a stranger headed north.

A Bowl Full of Cherries

“Cherry-Time” from Fairies and Fusiliers by Robert Graves -1918

Cherries of the night are riper
Than the cherries pluckt at noon 
Gather to your fairy piper 
When he pipes his magic tune: 
        Merry, merry, 
        Take a cherry; 
        Mine are sounder, 
        Mine are rounder, 
        Mine are sweeter 
        For the eater
        Under the moon. 
And you’ll be fairies soon.

In the cherry pluckt at night, 
With the dew of summer swelling, 
There’s a juice of pure delight, 
Cool, dark, sweet, divinely smelling. 
        Merry, merry, 
        Take a cherry; 
        Mine are sounder, 
        Mine are rounder, 
        Mine are sweeter 
        For the eater 
        In the moonlight. 
And you’ll be fairies quite.

When I sound the fairy call, 
Gather here in silent meeting, 
Chin to knee on the orchard wall, 
Cooled with dew and cherries eating. 
        Merry, merry, 
        Take a cherry; 
        Mine are sounder, 
        Mine are rounder, 
        Mine are sweeter. 
        For the eater 
        When the dews fall.
And you’ll be fairies all.