LOCAL VIEW –The Last Brown Day–

Sometimes my focus is too much upon the oncoming, and I miss what I am surrounded by. I am like the driver of a car, wisely focusing on the road ahead but a bit oblivious of the view beside me. This is all well and good until you become oblivious of the person beside you.

I recently heard a story about an old man and old woman driving together in one of those old pick-up trucks with bench front seats. They sat so far apart that the old lady’s forehead was actually resting against the coolness of the passenger side window. In front of them was a battered pick-up truck of the same year and make, but in it was a young couple obviously very much in love; the young lady’s head was resting on the young man’s shoulder. They were driving so slowly the older couple’s truck caught up, and as they did the old lady looked forward and then she sat up, turned to her husband, and reproachfully said, “We used to drive like that. What happened to us?” The old man glanced at her with a wry smile and said, “I haven’t moved.”

As Thanksgiving approached this year I looked forward to two things that to a degree were in conflict; a reunion of family, including new babies and new partners, and the first big snowstorm of the year, which was a glorified warm front but promised to dump a foot of snow all at once.

As the storm approached there were certain things I needed to attend to, such as making sure my snow-blower was running correctly after sitting idle all summer, and getting salt and a snow shovel out of storage and putting them on the porch. I noted the snow-blower’s carburetor was a bit fouled, and a sheer-pin on one blade needed replacing, and this necessitated a drive to a hardware store in the next town for a gasoline additive and a sheer-pin. This resulted in a, shall we say, “discussion” with my wife, because it seemed I might miss an hour of our reunion. What was more important, a sheer-pin or our own children? In the end things worked out, for I slipped away from our reunion and was back an hour later in such a manner that the chattering group hardly noticed I was gone, but beforehand it seemed worse than it was. I was not at all looking forward with relish, and anticipated trouble.

It was at this point, when my brains were working themselves into a tizzy, that I decided I needed to stop and smell the roses, though there were no roses to sniff. I was too focused on the oncoming snow and oncoming reunion, and was missing what was in the present tense. And what was that? It was not snow or a reunion. It was the last brown day before the landscape vanished under a blanket of white, perhaps for months; perhaps until April.

It didn’t take any extra time. I just took the time, as I walked from one chore to the next, to scuff through the leaves, and enjoy the rustling.

With holidays I nearly missed the last,
Brown day. It wasn’t on my Christmas list:
“The last, brown day.” Snow will make it be the past;
The white comes fast; the landscape’s kissed
By wool on trees and roads, but if a drift
Must block my path I wish a pile of leaves
To rustle through. The way sounds shift
From crisp to sift, from leaves to snow, just grieves
My heart, for I know snow is here to stay,
And therefore isn’t like the last, brown day.
Seize the moment, before it slips away.
Seize upon the last, brown day; in a kicking way
Rustle through leaves. Make life be play.
Rejoice all through the last, brown day.

Halting Fall Sonnet

I dared to roar back at the bullying wind,
Shaming it for ripping off beautiful leaves,
And it seemed God’s powers heard me and grinned;
(Great joys may fall on a man who believes.)
The roaring wind faded, and clouds also
Melted and shredded as skies became blue,
And sweet calm fell setting bright forests aglow
As the sun also fell and peacefulness grew.
What a sunset! And then, what a moonlit night
With the only sound falling nuts! Then, still dawn
Stunning, for, as first beams struck leaves with light,
Leaves fell without wind, halting my first yawn
With quiet, crisp cascades. Then I too grinned
Seeing leaves must fall, with or without wind.

CHILLED DAWN SONNET

Chilled Dawn: Purple stripes; orange stripes; the mood
Of autumn storm tainting far ocean sky.
The order confused; polite routine meeting rude
Changes: Wet leaves stuck like stamps; from on-high
Torn down-low; from upmost twigs to being slapped
On cold tar pavements; with each dawn later,
Later, too swiftly later. The route south is mapped
Through a wind as shifty as an alligator
Smile, and the geese are a gaggle confused,
And the monarch butterfly fights a head wind,
Flitting south but blown back north. The abused
North is outraged over how summer sinned,
For summer said, “Prosper.” It led us all on
Until we saw why, in the chill of the dawn.

LOCAL VIEW –Fall Peepers–

There is always a danger of missing the beauty right before your nose, especially if you take it for granted. I’m sure people who live with spectacular views can get up in the morning and look out the window and say, “The Matterhorn…Ho hum.” In such cases it helps a little to have people come from all over the world to see what you take for granted.

But then there is a new danger of acting as a sort of prop to the scenery. Years ago I lived with a Navajo in Arizona, and I used to kid him about a stoic expression he always assumed when tourists snapped pictures, and with a bit of a smile he’d inform me, “That is how Indians are suppose to look. Check out Arizona Highways magazine.”

I remembered him years later when I was raking leaves off the beaten path for a rich lady, using an old fashioned rake rather than a leaf-blower, and much to my surprise saw a bus come swaying and lurching down the lane, barely squeezing between the old stone walls. The upper part of the bus was largely glass, and on the inside I could see all the tourists, who I assumed were from Japan, were all pressed up against the glass snapping pictures of me, the quaint Yankee raking leaves. As hard as I tried to be natural, I found myself assuming a pose, and felt like a picture in National Geographic.

A third way to miss the beauty is to rate it. No two autumns are the same, and some have briefer beauty, because a gale rips all the leaves off the trees, while others have a browner beauty, because of drought. Rather than appreciating the variety I sometimes look back to the year which was the most brilliant, and become comparative.

The second half of the summer was so wet that all were expecting an especially brilliant autumn. But brilliance is dependent on sunshine. As I took the kids from the Childcare out on a daily walk I’d look over across a pond to the swamp maples, which are the the first to change, and see the amazing growth of color in the sun.

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But then a passing cloud would drape a shadow

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I prefer the colors to stand out, and a part of me called the second view downright dingy. But this would make a liar out of the part of myself that states the beauty is there for eyes to see, so I strove to see it. But then I was put to the test, as we were hit by a long spell of various sorts of gloom, cloud, drizzle and dampness.  Even as the foliage grew more brilliant the weather grew more gloomy.

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I figured I’d likely miss the swamp maples at their most brilliant, and have to wait for the sugar maples, but then I noticed the weather was so wet the sugar maple leaves were rotting as much as they were changing color.

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Then I heard motorcycles roar past one gray morning, and knew for them to be out leaf-peeping it had to be dry, though very gray, and as I headed off to do chores in an adjoining town I made plans to sidetrack into some swamps. I had a sense it was “now or never”.

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All you need to do is pull over and slosh a little into the sedge to have the color engulf you.

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If you are not careful you may become enchanted, wander into hidden valleys, and go unseen for twenty years like Rip Van Winkle.

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Soon you forget CNN or Drudge. You are visiting a utterly different swamp.

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And once you have found beauty on a cloudy day, a clear day is sheer heaven.

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LOCAL VIEW –The Glory Days–

One of my daughters has a way of choosing just the perfect boyfriend to test my spirituality. I tend to breathe deeply, in a seething manner, when I first hear of her latest friend, but I think God forgives me, for mostly I remain mute. Then, after a great deal of spiritual endeavor on my part, just when I’m getting over whatever prejudice was stirred up, and am starting to really like the fellow, he suddenly is history, and I am introduced to the next poor fool aspirant.

After too much of such soap operatic doings, (seventeen years),  I find it hard to get as excited, or even as interested, as I used get when my daughter was thirteen. I’ve been worn down. The latest fellow is an illegal immigrant from Brazil. Big deal. I just sort of nodded from my computer when he first came into the house, until my wife gave me a hidden kick. Only then did I remember it is polite to shake hands and look interested.

But one interesting thing about the fellow is he had never seen leaves change before. He didn’t live far enough south in Brazil to see the occasional Antarctic frosts and snows of their far south, and had grown up where leaves pretty much stay green.  He was startled, even a little alarmed, to be driving about (without a licence) and see very strange things happen to all the trees. fol-1-img_4015

It is odd how you can take such beauty for granted, if you’ve seen it most of your life. I was glad I had an outsider to remind me to get out see the view. One place I like to go is the flat-lands of the Sharon Stretch (a good place to drive over 100 mph late at night, unless you meet a moose coming out of the swamp).fol-2-img_4017

It was so beautiful I forgot my errand, and got out to wander into the swamp’s blueberry barrens.fol-3-img_4018

It’s a good place to get the blue and orange reflected below, as well as above.

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These trees are called “swamp maples” and always seem to be the first to change, perhaps because the cold settles into the lowlands first. I call the flaring of color in the swamps “candy autumn” because it is sweeter, brighter and warmer than when the cold really starts to hit and hold.

Once I was out I wanted to stay out, but I had to get back and work. Back at the Childcare many trees were still green, but a swamp maple (which gets called a “red maple”, when they root outside a swamp), was peeking from the oaks.

Unfortunately I couldn’t even hang out with the kids, and see if they appreciated the beauty or just took it for granted, because I have tax problems to deal with. Nothing like sitting indoors and gnawing a pencil to make you appreciate your own back yard.

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LOCAL VIEW –FIRST SNOWFALL–

I had plans to finish up some work on the clapboards at the end of my 250 year old house today, but awoke to temperatures of 23° (-5° Celsius) and frozen slush coating everything. I was pretty grouchy. October 18 is too darn early for snow. However the sun was brilliant on the horizon, and there wasn’t a breath of wind.First Snow 5 IMG_0760

It is hard to remain grouchy when it is so gorgeous out, but I tried my best. If I am to achieve my goal of becoming a cantankerous anachronism, it will require hard work and practice. So I put on my sourest expression and looked for things to gripe about.  I noticed my wife had left my granddaughter’s baby carriage had out, and it was all soggy with snow.   First Snow 2 IMG_0755Also the phlox flowers in the garden were frozen.First Snow 1 IMG_0753 Furthermore, the above photograph was suppose to be artistic, with the snowy car in the background, but it only reminded me I have to trim that yew. Also rake the leaves, and it’ll be harder with them wet.

Even as I was grouching to myself about that the leaves began falling. There wasn’t a breath of wind, but sometimes they are merely frozen to the twigs, so that the first beams of sun melts them free, even in a complete calm. In fact one leaf, as it falls, can jar others free, and a slowly developing slow motion avalanche of color crisply slides down the side of the tree. Formerly I’d sigh, and wax poetic, but as a practicing grouch I now grumble about how all the leaves are covering my firewood and keeping it from properly drying. The heap of firewood is to the right of the road, in this picture.First Snow 4 IMG_0756 You can see all those messy leaves all over the road. It’s enough to make you roll your eyes to heaven.First Snow 3 IMG_0758

Oh well. I figure Sunday’s suppose to be a day of rest, anyway. I’ll get back to practicing my grouchy expression first thing on Monday morning.