forty minutes of asparagus hunting

What you do when what you’ve been doing for so many years is over. Someone says wild asparagus is early this year, and picking the baby spears is the balm. The moment. Walking country fence lines and canal ditch banks for forty minutes will cure whatever rattles.

He cooked what he picked yesterday, but he never says no to me. Accept–he just deals with whatever happens; sure he threw his spices out that one time. And yes, he doesn’t always show up with fish when he said he would, but he doesn’t whine the rage against things that are easier to just accept.

But first we had my dead truck to start. Derby with a clutch. He pushes it down the driveway and I am “But . . . but. . .what are you doing?!” thinking it won’t stop. He pushes harder, Derby rolls faster and he reaches for the driver’s door and opens it.Ā  Jump in!

This is not what I do best. This running and jumping and trusting without a good plan first. But I run, I jump, I get behind the wheel. OK! Pop the clutch and give it gas when I tell ya.

Frick. He knows I hate this. No time to think this through. So push push and he hollers POP. And I pop the clutch and Derby starts and I am speeding backwards. Fricking panic. And he is laughing, trusting I can get things under control before I hit another car. This ease. This lack of Plan A and all over the world the people I know are doing this and that, and here I had been worrying about what would keep me floating now that my last good structure is done. Now I have no plan, and now no time to think.

And when we reach the dry canal, we park Derby in case of another running, popping start. I learn it’s best done on pavement to allow the tires to grab, but there is no pavement to be found. We’ll trust in the farm house nearby with the Eggs for Sale sign propped against the mailbox. One of these days when we knock on that door, someone will be home to sell us eggs. But so far, every knock has gone unanswered.

We walk the berm and I remember to look ahead for snakes. But then I start talking. How I had been a little girl finding wild asparagus in the hills and sometimes bringing it home for my mom to cook. And how sometimes I’d bring her what we called snake grass–it is tubular and you can unsnap each section so it seemed like it’d be edible. While I am talking that talk and looking back at him–just as I say snake grass, I step forward and a big-assed bull snake slithers under foot. I give the loud little girl squeal and torque my knee to keep from finishing that step.

I know better. I know the top of a berm is where they’d be catching the sun, but now I walk behind him. Let him scare the snakes away. Let me lag behind watching the fat yellow- and red-striped bumblebees touch and land. Touch and take off. Every stick a snake, every grass blade an asparagus spear.

In the pasture on the far side of the canal, a mare whinnies for her colt grazing in another field. I know that mother’s whinny. I know how it feels to have my colt further than my reach. I whinny with her. She doesn’t whinny back. But he does. This man who is hunting asparagus spears, he answers back. Says I am a good snake holler woman. My whinny years are gone.


About redmitten

author of Cracking Geodes Open, Making Good Use of August, and The Peppermint Bottle. poetry editor for IthacaLit. website:

12 responses to “forty minutes of asparagus hunting

  1. we are growing asparagus in containers out back, because my daughter loves it. I don’t know how to tell her that it might be years before we can eat them. I have no patience for this sort of gardening.

    I would FLIP OUT if I stepped on a bull snake. Or any snake. What kind of structure have you lost? When you lose one you have to build another, and sometimes it’s more fun if you don’t plan it ahead of time. Of course, it could also be a trainwreck of a disaster but I think it’s all in your perspective. šŸ™‚

    • Rose Hunter

      I second that, re flipping out. I stepped on a little, long-dead snake, more like a skin really – the other day and it was a BIG DEAL. I probably would have gone home after bull snake. Enough! šŸ™‚

      • redmitten

        and after you stepped on a dead snake, i stepped on a dead earthworm. oh, and a stick that looked like a dead snake. i’m really getting my holler down.

    • redmitten

      katy- i hope everyone reading this clicks over to your website so they can join me in envying what you are doing. i didn’t know this about asparagus! oh, and those darn snakes! the startle! ….i really like what you said about not planning ahead of time! i need to hear that more often. just run, jump, get behind the wheel, right? your website gives me that courage.

  2. wuffda

    Snake hollar woman…there it is…your indian name.

  3. kmerrifi

    “My whinny years are gone.” Says it all, doesn’t it…along with that marvelous photo. Thanks, Sherry, once again,.

    • redmitten

      and so what did i do the day after my last baby graduated and i had nothing left to structure my life? i ended up at the livestock yards while they were auctioning off horses. imagine, 1000 whinnies at a time. (mourn….)

  4. Rose Hunter

    I love this: “Every stick a snake, every grass blade an asparagus spear.”
    So local and universal. Of course you know what I read with that first sentence, how I relate it to what I am having trouble with. The balm (=) the moment. Thank you. šŸ™‚

    • redmitten

      yes to that first sentence. it was including you. and what happens now when we think every stick a snake, every blade a spear? let’s see what happens….

  5. Kathleen Kirk

    Wonderful. I’ve had (cooked/eaten) two batches of fresh, local asparagus so far this spring. Tempted to try to grow some in my own back yard!

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