Olives and Stars

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by Mike

I picked olives today. I picked them squatting down until my legs tingled, then I grabbed a big rock and set it down and sat on it so I could extend my feet in front of me and pick olives between my knees and out to the sides in a radius. When the radius was empty I stood up to pick olives with my legs spread apart and bending at the waist until my back hurt. I picked them with my head down so my neck got sore but my eyes got better at picking purple or black from the grass. My fingers got better, too, at picking purple or black from the grass. Sometimes I would grab an olive with a blade of grass and when I tried to lift them the grass would pull the olive out of my fingers and back to the wet ground, and this would happen a couple times before I got the olive free. I picked the olives with my thumb and forefinger and transferred them to my curled palm and sometimes I picked enough that no more would fit, but I didn’t notice so every time I put one in my palm another would fall out. I tossed them in the basket. If the basket was near, I would pick olives from the cold dirt with my right hand and transfer them quickly to my left, then from my left into the basket. I picked olives from under tufts of grass, next to rocks, out from goat shit, pried from mud, out of curled leaves, out from under thorny vines. I picked olives and thought of maps and I started picking towns from Corsican mountains. I sometimes wondered if that green patch over there was hiding a town and I always found an olive. I picked olives long enough that when I looked up I was surprised to see the valley.

I took a nap at lunch and dreamed I was picking olives in the mountains in Provence and I was happy in the dream.

Tonight in the cold I looked at the stars with my head tilted back and my neck was bent back and it all felt good. I looked at the stars through the olive tree branches and I tried to pick out which star would poke through olive silhouettes in a photo. I looked at the stars actually twinkling and thought about how people noticed the twinkling a hundred-thousand years before me, how it was probably one of the first things people noticed. I looked at the twinkling stars obscured by vapor from my breath. I looked at the stars and remembered the seas when I noticed the depth of Mediterranean blue the first time I was on a ship to Corsica. As my eyes adjusted I found stars in the black between constellations. I looked at the stars long enough that they didn’t seem painted on a ceiling, but they seemed to be floating deep down in the water.

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