Monday, November 17, 2014

A Little Autumn Poem

autumn morning

how can ordinary words
describe the sunlit undersides of geese
or how the swamp maple 
in the first blush of dawn
thrusts an implausible pink trunk
into the sky?

exactly which upper
and lower case letters will allow you to
feel the bite of the first frost
on your carelessly bare feet
skipping through the wet fire
to the sound of syncopated honks?

hours from now
unless these observations are
fixed on the open sky of the page
who will understand how your
shadowed footprints melted
into the dying grass
or how the great birds were swallowed
by the rising light?

Sunday, November 09, 2014

This Time of Year

At 3:30 in the afternoon, the light is already beginning to decant, pouring itself over the ground in long golden fingers. Shadows stretch long and longer still, until all that remains of the daylight is gathered high in the dome of the sky. Outside my window the trees stand in varying stages of undress. Most of the red maples have lost their leaves but the branches of many of the sugar maples are still clad in buttery yellow. Larches have turned the color of caramel and oak leaves boast shades of burnt orange and leather brown.

The yard is leaf strewn. Now and then a sturdy gust of wind blows them skittering and chattering across the road or into the briars at the edge of the lawn where they catch and wave like dry little hands.  Birds in similar colors – the brilliant red cardinal, the scarlet breasted house finch, the soft brown sparrow, the late-lingering goldfinch – flit about in the underbrush or come to the feeder in pairs to feast on seed. They do not sing the sun up in the morning as they do in summer. They limit their vocalizations to chirps and cheeps and leave the mornings to the crows and the jays whose strident calls vie with the rooster next door.

I find myself imitating the changes I see out of doors. I rise later like the sun and get sleepy earlier. I feel the urge to stock up on food the way the squirrels are doing, to eat more at one sitting like the birds. I walk less briskly, curl up on the sofa more often, slip into silence and contemplation more frequently. Conversations with trees and rocks and water become slower, less audible, as though the elements themselves were slipping into a semi-conscious state. Sometimes I feel the urge to pull the quilt of the clouded sky close around my shoulders and drift off to sleep with the bear and the caterpillar and the cinnamon colored chipmunk.

I’d do that except I don’t want to miss the winter.  I love the wind that whips around the corner of the house and shouts down the chimney. I want to be out of doors when the sun comes up and splashes diamonds across the first snowfall. I want to catch snowdrops on my tongue and snowshoe through the quiet woods. I want to feel the bitter bite of ice and wind then assuage it by sitting inside before a blazing fire. There’s too much life and beauty in winter to waste months sleeping. Perhaps that’s why we humans stay awake.

Thank you, Hilary

Sunday, November 02, 2014


The trees are dancing, swaying, sometimes frenetically when the wind gusts.  Leaves swirl up and up in mounting spirals until the wind pauses. Then they spiral back down only to be flung into the neighbor’s yard in the next breath. Today’s wind is a cold November wind, the fierce, hurrying kind that sweeps out of the north, gnashing its teeth and shouting.  It’s doing its best to chase summer from the landscape, to make us dig out sweaters and wooly socks, turn up the heat and hunker down.

 Seasonal changes don’t come without a fight. There’s a casual letting go at first with only hints of what’s to come. Warm air is tinged with coolness overnight, leaves lose chlorophyll and show their true colors, and for a while there’s a bridge, a connecting season, a resting, breathing space before the first blast of dedicated winter.

When it comes, that frigid breath, it takes no prisoners. Today’s wind is a harbinger of such change. It speaks of ice and snow and bitter cold, of leafless branches sketched in ink against a bleak sky, of chill silence and early darkness. There is redemptive beauty in the harshness, however. It’s there in every snowflake, in the bright dance of hearth flames, in the diamond sparkle of sunshine on snow, in the scarlet flash of a cardinal’s wing or the stark radiance of the frosty moon.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Quiet Thoughts

Now, when the leaves of deciduous trees are great splashes of color against faded blue, when the air at noon is still mild and hazy, when a few small birds still search the roadsides for seeds and great swirls of starlings paint designs in the evening sky, now is the moment to relax into the quiet,

If I had to choose just one thing to believe in, it would be change. No matter how slowly it comes, change is the one constant. I see it most clearly at this time of year when the leaves turn from working green to carnival colors before falling to sleep at a tree’s feet. There is mimicry in our human doings – those of us who watch nature match our feelings accordingly, slowing our activities and our thoughts so that we can get a good look at ourselves, at our bare bones of belief. Our own horizons widen.

Mostly we are human doings, not human beings. Frenetic activity suggests a purpose. The seasonal change from summer to fall puts us on notice that there is worth in slowing down, taking stock, using rest as a repair shop. We are reminded that we are individuals in a group, that we have our own shape and a singular reason for our existence.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Autumn Winds

In spring the winds blow up from the south, shepherding warmth to the coldest regions. In autumn, quite the opposite. Down from the north they sweep like cleansing brooms, pushing into every crevice, scooting the leafy remnants of summer into the center of the yard before flinging them to the four corners. Autumn’s winds are high winds, bully winds. They push through the clouds, scattering them, then swoop down to shake the trees, spinning multicolored leaves in spirals or great golden bursts.

There’s a distinct coolness underlying the winds of October even when they blow the warmth of the sun directly in your face. On them you can detect a hint of bitterness, of ice, and through them you can hear summer calling farewell from the treetops. Wood smoke and a faint hint of leather are borne on these winds. The cries of the geese travel on them, and the haunting sound of the hunting owl.

Autumn winds are not lullabies, as summer winds tend to be; they seek instead to push, to harry, to agitate. They are pillaging winds, forces of change that can stroke your cheek with warmth one moment and slap it the next with a hard, cold hand. The seasonal wheel turns, the winds blow. Autumn’s balance of August heat and November frost will give way to January’s shivery cold but for now the winds play both sides of the game, blowing warm one day, cold the next. It will be a long time before they speak again of spring.

Thanks, Hilary!