In Mainz it is unnervingly easy to walk off the edge of the city and into an October ghost story. Crows bob in the rolling fields, picking at the flotsam of last summer’s hay. The crows kvetch in the ravaged voices of unrepentant smokers. Early this morning, Autumn arrived in billowing grey velvet, banishing the sun. Now Autumn’s own light dusts the fields, powdering the furrows with silvery pollen. Crows billow up around me, their dark silhouettes snipped from the velvet folds of sky. The fields belong to crows now. The Scarecrow is dead.
I weave through a vineyard where the grapes are as dusty and morose as unpolished bloodstone and azurite. Unobserved (the Scarecrow is dead), I pluck a grape from the vine. Its skin is silvered with a tang of wild yeast, and the fruit tastes like Sunday wine, rotting sweetly with summer’s sins.
Lookout towers perch on stilts high above the fields, spying on Autumn as she shifts her lacy grey petticoats on the horizon. Only the lookout tower knows who killed the Scarecrow.
I wander out of the story and back into a greying corner of the city, where I find a tiny Weingut advertising Federweißer and Roter Rauscher. The moment I walk into the warehouse, a straw-haired boy who can’t be more than ten bounces up at my elbow and asks what I would like. A pair of grandparents gossips in the corner of the warehouse, but the boy doesn’t give them so much as a glance as he counts the change into my hand. He sends me off with a green glass bottle of cloudy Federweißer.
“Feather-white” the Germans name these spirits: the very youngest of Autumn’s wines, Federweißer is a Milky Way swirl of grape nectar in the first bloom of fermentation. I carry my bottle back up into the vineyard terraces, watching house lights blink on like fireflies in the fields below. The first sip of Federweißer is effervescent September, syrupy afternoons along the Rhein river. The aftertaste cools into a crisp October twilight, with thin crescents of wild green apples.
Marooned here in the middle of the fields where they killed the Scarecrow, I wait for the moon with a bottle of moonshine. The sky is a hemisphere of frosted glass. Seeing so much sky is like inhaling too much oxygen. I feel so full of sky I could float right off the path, but vertigo holds me earthbound. Even here, where the untamed sky has overgrown the city’s spires and domes, I can hear bells singing out vespers, slurred voices drunk on their own bronze piety.