Tonight Marguerite will sleep like the dead.
Diesel belch and rumble – the tractor, hands on gear-train and throttle. Stiff clutch-shank and pedal jerk – foot, ankle and calf battered – engine growl, twisting torque and the platform of the machine hovering, shaking with fueled intent, and the mower with thrashing blades, sliding chains, pinion, universal joints. all metal noise and spinning iron.
Clouds of dust, spray of mulch, thick cotton coat, bandana, cuffs buttoned tight at the wrist- baseball cap visor against the mid-day glare.
Metal squeal from the cutter – that’s a bearing – needs grease.
She is surrounded by the reek of whipped weeds – the air assaulted with clack and chuck of blade thrown stones and the seat rocks in rhythm – huge drive wheels squat and churn over dry piles of earth.
Winding through the orchards, between the gnarled, old mother trunks holding boughs spread wide – deep greens hiding clusters of new cherries – where the riot of blossoms rang in spring all through the month of April.
The melody of a song from decades ago awakens, “The river flows, It flows to the sea, wherever that river flows, that’s where I want to be…” and the memory of two sons and her beloved dead painter (His voice in her mind, his wit and his words, “I asked the lord for love and life – but cancer was the answer.”), a husband who revered the valley and left it with a forty year record of brilliant acrylic colour – stacks of coated canvas – renderings of leaves, barren hills cut against sunset skies, clouds on edge, haunted heat-stroke visages, and her favorite – a voyeur’s glance at two shivering boys beside an upturned rowboat, their toes in the sand. Some hung in a local gallery, all of them hidden from the bidders (to hell with fortune), his legacy and her delight – the world can celebrate later when she no longer needs his heart.
My boy – my little mechanic – math mind and vision – curious heart – from Oliver primary school to outside the atmosphere in thirty-five years – pilot, engineer, astronaut.
At the end of the day there is cup of strong coffee, a view of the valley all the way to Oroville Washington, the night sky and the stars where her last living kin – her survivor blood has flown, and a cool shower – long enough to rinse every body ache, heat soaked pore, beaten feet and hands into a welcome repose – and this long sun-baked day with its sweat, its dirty oil and diesel rags will fall away.
Tonight she will sleep like the dead, and she will dream wonderful dreams that ride rockets and smell like paint.