Sunday, September 23, 2007

About Town: Billings Farmers' Market drawing to a close

With the crisp evenings of fall, the shortening days, and the lengthening nights, Billings, Montana is in its glory days.

Living in Billings, one heads for the mountains as often as possible when the July and August swelter are at their worst. Same is true in December and January when the ground is bare here and you just want to be in the snow and feel the snap of cold on your face.

But it is hard to get excited about leaving town in September or October.

Some other places also hit their glory days at this time of year (San Francisco notably springs to mind,) and only they hold any attraction that would tempt one away.

A bittersweet part of it all, though, is that the Farmers' Market is drawing to a close. During these last few times, the amount of produce is staggering, as the growing season draws to its ripened close.

The street musicians aren't perhaps as energetic as earlier in the year. Not all of the downtown shops that were open earlier in the summer remain so in September.

Winter is hardly just around the corner, but the seasons are turning.

The Billings "defining element" -- AKA "Skypoint" -- starts to bring up associations of snow-covered mountains rather than crisp white sails or fluffy summer clouds.

The crowd is more subdued -- no less content or evidently happy to be there -- but does one detect a hint of melancholy?

Even the farmers' attitudes take on a different hue, and one can almost sense an impatience to get the stuff sold so fall chores and winter garden planning can get under way.

The scent of fall hunting is in the air. Peeking in the windows of Meadowlark Gallery at the paintings and prints of birds and dogs and elk and mountains helps that along.

Walking along, hunting for the perfect purchase, there is a bag of organically-grown apples. The first bite alone reveals a complex layering of flavors and scents that sums up the totality of summer -- more like a fine wine than a "mere" piece of fruit.

But one is reminded that a bottle of wine can be opened any day of the year -- but this apple, this sky, these people... all are only for this day, none other.

Time to walk home.

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