“Oak Autumn” is what I call the foliage season after the maples quit blazing their glory, and the tourists quit crowding our highways, yet there are still leaves up on many trees. To the sensationalist it is merely “brown”, and they drift south for more gaudy beauty, which often is not that far to our south, and only a few hundred feet lower than our hills, among the “Flatlanders” of Massachusetts. But I can think of many words better than “brown” for the more subtle beauty of later autumn, with perhaps “russet” being the most overused.
I have fled the depression (encouraged by the media) out into the beauty of the outdoors, and it has been good therapy. It is nice to see Truth expressed silently. It needs no scientific explanation. It is simply the beauty of autumn stating, “I am.”
Even before Oak Autumn arrived I found myself ensconced in my bomb shelter called poetry, nibbling an eraser and composing sonnets. I do so on old fashioned paper, using a thing called a “notebook”, which is a format Twitter, Facebook and Google can’t control. I include a few sonnets in this post not so that you will have to read them, (especially if you can’t abide poetry), but rather so that Facebook, Twittler and Google censors will have to read them. You can skip them if you like, but they can’t, and I delight in heaping coals on their heads.
The days are dark and short, and yet winter
Stays in the wings. The oaks still cling to shawls
Of russet. Autumn lingers. To win her
Shy smiles you too must pause, not to hear calls
Of migrating geese, nor the crisp bustle
Of wind-stirred leaves, but silence. Just stop
All your rushing to prepare, your hustle
To be ahead, and, just as the trees drop
Their leaves, drop all concerns and just stand,
And watch the low, amber, autumn sun explore
Places summer's shade hid. It's a changed land
We're given. Down an opened corridor
Of tree trunks the low sun's beaming
And there strolls Autumn, smiling, dreaming.
At parties fifty years ago I knew
Some of my generation were rotten.
Now they control, deeming us a strong crew
Whom they, as coxswains, bellow at. But what fun
Can come of obeying idiotic
Commands? They aim for the teetering lip
Of Niagara Falls on a Titanic
They call unsinkable. It's nuts. No whip
Can drive a dull mule past a certain point
Which offends common sense's dignity.
Delusional leaders suck at a joint
In the sunset of life, fighting the free.
Life must have its ends, yet their swansong grieves.
They lack the grace of a tree shedding leaves.
How gracious is the forest midst the death,
The yearly death, the terrible ending
Of lushness; of growth, of green which feeds breath.
Leaves make oxygen. We should be rending
Our garments as trees quit. Instead we're awed
By the sheer beauty of tree's surrender
To God's will. Our dumb logic has pawed
Like a lion at an old typewriter
And the mashed mess misses what tourists come
Miles to see: The trees. They drop their leaves
In a glory. Humans are not the same.
We cling and crave, and so our story grieves.
Where trees make beauty we make shame.
Lord, make me a vegetable. As I depart
Let there be grace in my silencing heart.
Because the past summer was so wet, and because it was followed by one of the latest first frosts I can recall, (rivaling 1975, when I protected plants with tarps from a few light, early frosts, and had things continuing well into November, when plants pretty much quit not because they were frozen, but because there wasn’t enough sun,) the trees could drop their leaves later, if they so chose. Some did not chose to do so. Perhaps they are regulated by the length of the day. For example the maples obeyed the clock. This tends to throw a wrench into some “scientific” studies which purport trees are shedding leaves later.
Even though I walk the woods to escape politics, I enjoy the company of old grouches like myself, and, as grouches, we tend to drift towards grouching, which tends to drag us towards politics. One good friend whom I was gazing at the oaks with, who likely knows more about the woods than I do, abruptly turned to me and asked me my opinion about why the maples had shed their leaves when there wasn’t a frost. I told him that I thought one cue they used was the amount of daylight they received. He immediately nodded, as if I was verifying something he already knew, and then muttered a few rude things about some “scientist” who had stated otherwise, on the network news.
I ventured the sunlight might be less for the taller maples, but for their children living in the shaded understory of the forest, the sunlight might actually increase, as their elders shed leaves above. This might explain why the younger trees always seemed to keep their leaves longer, and why there was a understory autumn, brilliant below even as branches above were bare and stark.
The subject turned to oaks, and the fact they kept their leaves despite a roaring gale we’d had the day before. My old friend shook his head. He wished they’d shed their leaves, because he was a bit worried an early snow on those leaves might maim the trees, the way a late May snow maims trees by falling after leaves are out. Trees know snow on leaves can break boughs, which is one reason deciduous trees shed them, and conifers have such skinny needles.
I know worry is a waste, but I do it anyway, and I found myself infected by my friend’s worry about the oaks. But the next week I noticed something odd. These same oaks, which had kept their leaves in fifty mph winds on a weekend, started dropping their leaves in the total calm of dawn the next week. What the….? It just did not compute. And my second response when faced with wonder is to write a sonnet. My first response? It is to point it out to the children at my Childcare. Their response? It did not take much urging on my part to get them all running about attempting to to catch a falling leaf before it hit the ground, which is nearly impossible to do. I did catch a lone leaf, which preserved my status before the little ones, who could not do it.
My solace through this long, plodding workweek
Has been to watch the rustling, russet oaks
Let go their leaves. I see poetry peek
Into my darkness; smiles sneak like a sly joke's
Onto soured lips and spoil my dour pouts.
Then folk want to know why my muteness winks.
I watch leaves glide in calm, or flock about
A passing gust, each unique as it sinks,
Some twirling, some cruising steady and straight,
But all so erratic the children can't catch
Them as they fall. Some leaves still await
Their moment. What makes each oak leaf unlatch?
After clinging through roaring October gales
A leaf in a dead calm lets go, and sails.
I knew some scientists would not be satisfied with a sonnet, and likely had found funding for a study of why an oak leaf can hang on through a 50 mph gale on a Saturday and then fall in a dead calm on the next Friday. I decided to search the web, and the answer turned out to be pretty interesting.
Most think leaves change color because they are dying, but in fact they are working very hard as they change color. It turns out the creation of chlorophyll is a multistep process involving various enzymes and complex chemical reactions, and while some plants don’t mind starting from scratch every spring, others like to break down the components of chlorophyll and store them in twigs and branches, to have a head start the next spring.
As the green of chlorophyll fades the orange of carotene and the yellow of xanthophyll become more apparent, but components of these things must also be broken down. To protect the leaf a sunscreen of sorts is created, which contributes to the bright red color, called anthocyanins. The leaf must be very much alive to make this stuff, and cling to the tree in fifty mph gales.
Only when all this work is complete is the tree ready to get rid of the leaf, which is a liability in heavy snow and not much use when sunlight is low and wan. But it can’t do so with the channels between twig an leaf open. The tree would bleed to death. So a sort of scab must form in what is called the “abscission layer”. I’ve also heard it called a “cork”. Once the cork is complete the leaf simply lets go, even in a total calm.
The above is likely a gross over-simplification, but it is plenty complex enough for me. I stand in wonder at all leaves do as I simple say “they change color.” It is amazing, but scientists dig deeper and deeper. Just the creation of a single enzyme in the above process is a good tale, in and of itself. However, rather than that tale, I confess I’d like to know the tale of how the heck they get the funding to study such stuff. Not that I myself wouldn’t fund them, if I had cart loads of money, but I don’t, and doubt I ever will, because not everyone thinks my curiosity is worth funding. I have to do it for free.
As I searched the web for “why leaves change color” I came across all sorts of videos aimed at small children, attempting to explain the wonder of autumn. Most did contain a semblance of science, but some seemingly felt compelled to interject some dubious factoid from the Global Warming agenda, such as “Scientists from Harvard have determined leaves are changing color five days earlier,” which at best seemed off the topic.
I have a different approach. I tell stories about Wittle Wobbie, (IE Little Robbie), who is a precocious Enfant Terrible who know much more than his teachers, because his father is a brilliant scientist. When his teachers state the fairies of autumn are painting the leaves pretty colors, Wittle Wobby will put his hands on his hips and state, “I just don’t weally see wat the heck they are teaching you in collage these days.” This may seem like an adult joke, but the small children roll about laughing.
Wittle Wobbie tests things out to see if they are true. Upon hearing chlorophyll allows plants to mix H2O with CO2 and sunlight to make sugar, Wittle Wobbie wants sugar, even though his mother has banned it, so his puts a glass of water in sunshine and adds CO2 by breathing on it. When not a speck of sugar results he marches to his father and demands an answer. And of course this allows Wittle Wobbie to inform his teacher, the next day, “Didn’t dey teach you nuffin ’bout photosynthesis in college?”
Wittle Wobbie gets into all sorts of trouble. The other children’s paper maccha volcanoes combine vinegar and baking soda and produce gushing’s of crimson water. Wittle Wobbie’s sets off the school’s sprinkler system.
Wittle Wobbie tales are very popular, but at times I think they may get me into trouble. The kids clamor for them, but I steer them away. All leaves serve a purpose, but all leaves must fall. One can study science without being a little hellion.
The point is, our Creator has created a most amazing creation. At some point even the most scientific and determined Atheist must drop his jaw and simply say, “Wow!”
I can never remember a summer as wet as the past summer was, in southern New Hampshire. I can remember wet spells, especially in springtime, but never such a persistence of damp and dour and dripping dismalness, during summer.
About a decade ago we had a record-setting, dark and drenching June, but it dried out in July. Other years have seen training, July gully-washer thunderstorms that caused local flash floods. And of course, dying tropical storms have given us amazing August and September rains and floods, (most notably Connie and Diane in 1955). However, all these events are mostly a matter of days, or at most of two or three weeks. This past summer made me sit up and take notice.
Not that the summer was “unprecedented”. Just because you yourself have never seen a thing happen before doesn’t mean it never happened. It was said (I think by President Truman) that, “The only thing new under the sun is the history you haven’t read.” If you look back through the records you will often see our forefathers endured worse.
However, just to argue with myself, I will also assert that every day is fresh and new. Each day differs from other days in a manner that makes each day have a unique fingerprint. Therefore, every day is in some way “Unprecedented”.
To truly be a great meteorologist one must on one hand study history, and on the other be aware that another word for “freshness and newness” is, “Chaos”. In fact, predicting weather is nearly as hard as predicting humanity. Meteorologists are nearly as inclined to forecast incorrectly as psychologists are.
The major difference is that when meteorologists forecast incorrectly, they cannot put the weather in jail for disobeying them. Psychologists, on the other hand, can institutionalize their clients for indicating that their pet therapy was and is and ever more will be total bunkum.
Politicians tend to be more like psychologists than like meteorologists. When Stalin was wrong, he was far more inclined to institutionalize his subjects than confess his own error. Blame is a wonderful thing, if you have the power to get away with it. When Stalin’s invasion of Finland was a debacle, it was wonderful (for Stalin) to be able to purge generals, as Stalin himself kept his status as “infallible”.
In actual fact, the only One worthy of being called “infallible” is God. Stalin made a mistake when he tried to replace the Almighty, and his end was tragic. To avoid such tragedy, it is far better to confess we do fail, which meteorologists are able to do. They have a thing or two to teach the rest of us about humbleness.
But they can’t claim credit, for the true teacher is a thing called “weather”. In New England some say, “If you don’t like the weather, wait a short while.” What this statement suggests is that weather can do what psychologists can’t. Weather can improve your mood, where psychologists at times charge you an absurd amount for an hour spent making you feel that you are insane. The sun breaking through the clouds charges you nothing, but can change your life by making you feel saner. In the case of Johnny Nash and the song, “I Can See Clearly Now”, the good mood prompted by sunshine sold a million copies, but the sunshine charged nothing.
If sunshine can elevate our mood, then rain can depress it, if the rain does more than end a drought. (No rain at all is not a good thing.) And here we notice something about the euphoria so wonderfully described by Johnny Nash’s hit song. The reason “seeing clearly” is such a good thing, and the reason “the rain is gone” and “the pain is gone” is because the “obstacles” are clearly seen. What this suggests is that there was an earlier time when “obstacles” were not so clearly seen. As the poet Longfellow put it, “Into each life some rain must fall.”
A quick perusal of Johnny Nash’s life does show a darker time followed by a brighter time: A recording studio he attempted to run in the United States collided with cutthroat competition and a certain unwillingness to invest in new music, so he declared bankruptcy, moved to Jamaica, where expenses were far lower and the Reggae-scene embraced new music, and there he found success and a “bright, bright, sunshiny day”, (and a million-seller).
In a sense Johnny Nash did what meteorologists do. He admitted he failed, when he declared bankruptcy, and without that admission he could not have moved on to his million-selling success.
This brings me around to the dismal topic of those who cannot admit their failure. I am referring to the so-called “Elite” who live in the so-called “Swamp” of Washington DC, and satellite swamps such as “Hollywood”.
What failure can they not admit? Chiefly, they cannot admit they are increasingly unpopular. They are addicted to fame, and lust for applause, but increasingly hear booing. (“F— Joe Biden!”) They need to see they might be doing something wrong, but instead dismiss their audience as idiots. Their increasing unpopularity in fact lost them the last two presidential election, but they used fraud to “win” the last one. This did not make them more popular. In like manner, many of their ideas are rejected by other highly intelligent thinkers, yet, by employing “cancel culture” and censoring differing ideas on platforms such as Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter, the Elite think they create the illusion everyone agrees with them.
This vain foolishness is painful to watch. It is as if a meteorologist predicted sunshine and it rained, and the meteorologist was so vain he walked about in the rain wearing sunglasses and saying, “Isn’t this sunshine wonderful?”
Or perhaps singing, “I can see clearly now. It’s pouring rain.”
Rather than embracing Truth, such people prefer ignorance. It hurts to see it. It is embarrassing. They are making such complete jackasses of themselves! Yet, in their ignorance, they actually believe they are “winning”. They believe they are “popular” even as they alienate. They are as ridiculous as a person who cheats at solitaire, for even in their alienated loneliness they puff out their chests and swagger about “winning”.
The loving thing to do with such people is to gently and kindly inform them of the Truth, but fifty years of sad experience informs me that such people are all too often incorrigible. They are too certain they are “winning” to see they are not. After fifty years I have witnessed many such people come to bad ends. I never wished they’d see such unhappy endings. But…they insisted.
If God allows it, I hope to someday write about the people I knew, and often loved, who came to bad ends. If my pen is able, the reader will see why such people were lovable. They dared do things most are too inhibited to do. However, because such daring involved being to some degree “outlaws” they ran up against the “Law”.
In some cases the “law” was silly rules, clung-to by an outdated status-quo, (and such “law” does not deserve a capital “L”), but in other cases the “Law” was the real deal, the Truth. There is a gigantic difference between standing up to outdated prudes and stick-in-the-muds, and standing up to Truth, (which some call “God”.) I would try to point out the huge differences, but largely my explanations failed. My daring friends considered me a prude and stick-in-the-mud for even suggesting they be reined back. Then, for example, they would die of AIDs. They found other ways to come to bad ends, as well. It was not what I liked to witness. (It seems a sort of definition of both ignorance and tragedy that the tragic hero sometimes looks for freedom by donning chains, (for example, addictions), and sometimes seeks life in the direction of death).
You might think that after fifty years my generation would wise up, but many never let go of their ignorance, and to see such gross ignorance seize power in my homeland in 2020 made the past summer dismal enough. We didn’t need a single rainy day. But sometimes the Creator seems to use weather as a sort of mood-music for His movie, and all summer we had wet weather befitting “The Swamp’s Coup”. Sometimes the wet blew in from the chilly Gulf of Maine, and sometimes it rolled up from the hot and humid south, but it was never truly dry.
How bad was it? Well, it snuck up on us, for at the start we were in a drought. Radar showed thunder pounding New York City, which had a very wet June, but that rain slipped south of us, at first. But it slowly made inroads north, until now the drought has retreated up to northern Maine. In a number of nearby communities, it has been the rainiest July-August-September on record, (with the records going back between 90 and 152 years). And where the record was not set, the rainfall “nearly” set a record.
Basically, summer sucked. My garden became a mire. My lush and green potatoes’ foliage produced rotted tubers down in their roots. I now know how the farmers felt in the Irish potato famine. You do the usual work, but get no crop.
I gained other insights. When the Medieval Warm Period gave way to the Little Ice Age some terrible famines afflicted Europe. Basically the fields which had been bountiful became mires under cold, excessive rainfall. I got a glimpse of this. I couldn’t till between the rows of my garden because my rototiller sank in the mire. The weeds rejoiced.
I am very thankful I am not dependent on my garden for food, for, as a survivalist, I would have starved if I only depended on my garden. I am thankful better farmers work elsewhere, and I can go to the market. But I am a little nervous because a few shelves at our market are empty. I have never seen that before. (It has something to do with the ignorant being in control in Washington, and disruptions in the “supply chain”).
However, as a survivalist, I have other sources of food besides my garden. The garden’s failure is like Johnny Nash’s bankruptcy. Failure is not a proof a million-seller doesn’t lie just ahead. So, midst all the rain, I looked about to see how nature was handling the wet.
One thing that loved the wet was fungus. Mushrooms were popping up all over the place. If the markets had been emptier, one likely could have feasted on mushrooms, if they knew their mushrooms. One might even have become fat. But you have to know your mushrooms. Some can kill you, and some can derange you, and some merely cause bellyaches and astounding flatulence. Others are loaded with protein, including some proteins which are rare and can help ill people deal with their ailments. But, (besides feasting on pasture mushrooms), I tended to ignore that particular bounty, provided by the amazing wet.
Other, less edible fungus did some odd things. Besides turning my potatoes to slime underground, they rotted some (but not all) of my tomato plants right at ground level. Just above that brown rot the green tomato stems produced masses of white roots in the rain, so I just dug a new hole and stuck the stem underground and the plant amazingly went on to produce tomatoes, (some of which rotted even as they reddened, covered with an odd, white mold.) But I did get some good ones and enjoyed tomatoes on toast.
Mold grew all over the place. I saw some odd examples. Want some?
When I scattered “layer pellet” for my chickens a few pellets would bounce outside the chicken wire. The next day they had grown white beards of mold.
So did flies trapped in my car. I’d try to wave them out of my vehicle, but one evening I was too weary to be bothered, and when I got in the car the next morning three flies were on the inside of my windscreen, dead as doornails and covered in white mold, like itty-bitty wolves dressed in sheep’s clothing.
But when mold started growing on the legs of my dining room chairs, I bought a dehumidifier. (My wife was washing our furniture in vinegar to stop the mold, and that is work we don’t need). (Also I don’t like the smell of vinegar; in a salad dressing viniger is OK; but not as an air freshener).
Even the foliage of trees seemed to get moldy, especially in the understory where leaves never dried out. Up higher the foliage was vigorous and green, and I expect the tree trunks grew wide rings this year, but down in the shade the leaves had struggles and by the start of August I saw the lower foliage of both Oaks and Maples simply turning brown and falling off. Here’s an Oak:
And here’s a Maple:
I am sixty-eight and had never seen the leaves rot on the trees like this before. It was a bit creepy. I felt like a Hobbit marching into Mordor, where all life is blighted. Combined with the insanity reported in the news broadcasts, the summer became very depressing. Rot was everywhere. When I bought a loaf of bread at the market it was blue with mold before I had three mornings of toast. Mold spores must have been filling the air everywhere, and I did notice the children at our Childcare had runny noses, and sometimes their noses produced boogers especially green, as if mold was even growing in their noses. When even children’s noses started to look moldy, I felt like I was slumping into some sort of hysteria.
Fortunately, I have eleven years’ worth of experience with a Childcare’s expenses, and one amazingly big expense is Kleenex. It rivals diapers and wipes. Childcare Professionals are exposed to unholy amounts of snot, both viral (clear) and bacterial (green), and even washing your hands until they are chapped can’t avoid the simple fact you are doused in viruses and bacteria and either develop a healthy immune system, or else quit the business. Developing “natural immunity” is an important part of both childhood and being a functioning Childcare Professional. In fact, children who grow up on farms are far healthier than children who grow up in dirt-free high-rises. Also, Childcare Professionals tend to be healthier than people who are scared to death of snot.
Therefore, I was not excessively alarmed when I noticed I sniffled this summer. I figured it likely was “an allergy”, and due to all the mold spores. But I did notice that being a sniveler gave me power sniveling didn’t used to get me. In the old days, when you sniveled, people scorned and sneered at you as a sort of weakling. Now they assume you are carrying the dreaded corona virus and dive out of your way. If there is a crowd at the register at the supermarket, you are able to cut line just by sniveling loudly. Surely sniveling is far short of the power of God, but where God could part the Red Sea, a clever sniveler like myself could part a politically correct crowd, simply by strategically sniffling. But this power did not make me feel good. It made me feel the mold had infected the thinking of the politically correct.
I fought the sense that rot and fungus was winning, but at times it seemed reality conspired against me. For example, in August even the brooks and rivulets of clear, clean water seemed to get moldy. As the rains went on and on clean waters grew strangely brown. I frantically searched my memory for excuses.
Sometimes water gets brown due to silt, but at first this was clear-brownness, like tea without milk. Sometimes such clear-brownness occurs in brooks because falling leaves are like tea-leaves which steep in the water, but the leaves hadn’t fallen yet. Then I noticed the brownness began precipitating in the water, like some Mordor algae, brown rather than green, and at times the brownness even became a scum on the surface.
My faith felt tested. So I asked myself, “What would a Hobbit do in Mordor?” As I recall they lifted their eyes. Sam and Frodo then saw that above all the fume and stench of Mordor the stars still shone, in a realm untouched by corruption.
So, did I lift my eyes? No, as a scientist I crouched down and looked even lower, to study the phenomenon of brown waters.
It happened on a day when my dour mood was made more dour because, when the skies finally, finally cleared, they were dulled by the smudge of smoke from western forest fires. Under this yellow sky the brown water looked browner. But, after three days of yellow skies there was one rill which was finally, finally drying out a little.
This rill ran down a sandy path children’s feet have made in a pasture’s sod, and usually water only trickles down this path as the snows melt in April and early May, but this year the rill kept flowing all summer. The rill is born from a spring, and usually is sparkling and clear, so when even the rill turned brown I felt like I was in some sort of bad dream. Either that, or I’d been a foolish teenager and gone to see a horror movie on a bright, bright sunshiny day, and walked out afterwards into sunshine polluted by fear. But, when the rain actually ceased for three entire days, (albeit it under pus-yellow skies), the rill shrank and left brown crud on its coasts. So I crouched down to examine the crud. What did I learn by actually looking? I learned the brown crud wasn’t fibrous filaments like Mordor algae. It was a powder like….like….pollen.
Only then did I lift my own eyes, just a little. I immediately saw many plants loved the rain and were twice as tall as usual. Some copious pollen-producers had dull green flowers, like ragweed, but the goldenrod and purple asters were as tall as I was, and were as yellow and purple as Easter in the fields. And once my eyes began lifting, they kept rising, and I saw the tops of trees were dried enough by breezes and sunshine to defeat the mold, and rather than dropping rotted leaves, the leaves were flaring the healthy hues of early autumn’s glory.
This seemed a good symbol. If you want health in Mordor, stick to the high ground. The mold likes the low places of the Swamp.
I suppose this idea will eventually metastasize into one of my awful sonnets, but as a survivalist I also had to study how nature responded. Was the rot winning, and causing animals to starve?
Not at all. The wet produced clouds of mosquitoes, which humans don’t like but which make birds and bats fat. Also a dry spring and wet summer produces a bounty of wind-pollenated nuts, such as acorns.
You nearly needed a helmet, walking under the oaks. And although acorns are so loaded with tannic acid that they are basically inedible, the original survivalists of New England knew how to make them edible. They’d scoop out a deep hole beneath the waterfall of a brook, and fill it with acorns, and just let the waters wash for month after month. Slowly but surely the tannic acid was washed from the nuts, yet the nuts could remain edible for years. I have read of such a stash of acorns discovered twenty years after the person who put them there departed, and those twenty-year-old acorns were judged especially sweet by the people who ate them. (If you are unwilling to wait twenty years, and are starving, you can hurry this process by boiling the acorns twenty times, and discarding the blackish water twenty times)
Of course, chestnuts were preferred over acorns, by the original survivalists, for they are delicious as they fall, but early in the twentieth century a terrible blight came from overseas and struck down this food supply. It was a grief of my grandparent’s time. But the chestnuts never quit. They kept sending up shoots from their roots, which the blight would again kill, whereupon new shoots would arise, until now, after a century, some of the shoots seem to be becoming more immune to the blight. Perhaps in my grandchildren’s time people will again rustle through fallen leaves looking for the prickly burrs, as my grandparents did. But for now, you have to know the woods well to find the shoots briefly producing burrs, even as they die.
Invasive blights have also struck down our elms, ashes, dogwoods and now our beeches. But one thing a dying tree does is produce nuts. It is as if they know they are dying and put all their effort into perpetuating their species. The woods are full of beechnuts.
There are so many beechnuts the squirrels can’t remember where they buried them all, (or, even if he could have remembered, that particular squirrel became prey for a hawk, and his stash remained buried, and sprouted the next spring.) In the sunny places where towering beeches have died, the forest floor is covered with hundreds of beech saplings. Who is to say one or two might not have immunity to the latest blight?
Nature fights back. It doesn’t just roll over and die, when afflicted by a blight from Mordor. Just as Johnny Nash moved from bankruptcy to a million-seller, nature has ways of moving from blight to bonanza. As a survivalist, you simply need to keep you eyes open, and to look.
Besides bonanzas of acorns and beechnuts, there have been others. Wild grapes have been prolific. And one bonanza which should have been obvious to me involved cranberries. Cranberries dislike dryness and thrive in the wet.
There was one patch which looked like it might be dying out, during the drought of last May and June. It spread like crazy once things became so wet. I’d say no farmer’s care could have done so well. The patch tripled in size, and produced cranberries galore.
The cranberry patch is more than able to feed the local flock of wild turkeys, and the children at my Childcare. But cranberries have pucker power, and you might think a modern child’s addiction to sugar would make children adverse to eating them. But I use reverse psychology. I tell them, “You won’t like them. Only grown-ups like them. You can try one, but they are wicked sour. You can spit it out, if you want.” Then, perhaps to show how grown-up they are, the little children do try one. Often they spit it out. But then something odd occurs. The children try another. Pretty soon they demand we detour on our hikes to other places, so they can visit the cranberry patch, so they can pause to munch the sour fruit. It likely does them good, as unprocessed cranberries have a fair amount of vitamin C and antioxidants. Also, it likely does them good, in terms of seeing things don’t need to be drenched in sugar to be appealing.
Now, if we could only teach the Elite in the Swamp the same thing: Things don’t need to be drenched in lucre to be appealing.
But I fear such Elite fools will need to first make a Mordor. Only then will they see life can be far better than Mordor. Like Johnny Cliff they need a bankruptcy to succeed. (Unfortunately, they seem determined to drag the rest of us along for the ride.)
Though it’s an evergreen, in the painted fall White pine’s two-year-old needles come drifting down Through slanting sun in the tall trunk’s hall And turn the forest floor a foxy brown. Softest of needles, they pillow my feet And silence my tread; charge the atmosphere With an incense that is wondrously sweet; And let me feel I’m but halfway here As my mind is enchanted far away To a place I don’t really remember But which I recall each year, on a day Of gold at the tail end of September. It’s a place I’ve never found, as I roam, But know when I get there I’ll truly be home.
There’s a mist up in the maples; There’s a hueing of the trees. Let the farmer plant his staples; Let the banker seek his ease. Neither way will truly please.
I’m made hobo by the woodlands. I’m made cross-eyed by the trees. Schoolboys don’t have to be good. Man’s Made rules ban ecstasies, And his goals are but a tease.
In the treetops there’s no fading Above glades that know no shading.
Farmers sweat, as bankers promise. Schoolboy’s are the Doubting Thomas.
Last week we had but a single glory day, with skies as blue as promises, before the dreary and cold weather clamped back down. This is typical of the hills of New Hampshire. During my boyhood among the flatlanders of Massachusetts I came to expect spring to bust out in April, but I’ve learned not to expect it before May, this far north. We live right at the boundary of a sort of change in climate zones. Here is where Indians stopped attempting to grow corn, and became hunters.
Rather than April being a month where spring busts out, it tends to be a torture. Trees aren’t stupid, and they look both ways before crossing over into summer. The maples start to be hazed by their buds in early April, but they only tantalize, for what seems like forever. A sort of mist rides the tips of twigs, golden green over sugar maples and raspberry over swamp maples, and I’ve learned to appreciate the beauty…….about 5% of the time. The rest of the time it seems like way too much foreplay.
This is especially true when April holds long spells of dank weather, which is often the case. Snow can mix in with the rain right into May on the most torturous years. A sort of war goes on between the powers of rebirth and the powers of rot. (If you plant corn, beans or squash too early, that is exactly what their seeds do: rot.)
To really rub it in, last week the children asked me questions, and I had no answers. Rather than seeing this as an opportunity to teach how life never gets old, and is always full of new things, I just felt I was failing to live up to my reputation for being amazingly knowledgeable. Rot even was effecting my brain. For example, a child asked me, “What animal is this from?”
(Oh the irony! Here it is April, and rather than the fresh and new, I am consulted about an old bone. ) I had to confess I didn’t know. My guess was it was an old pig bone, and then, to hide my ignorance, I pointed out the gnawing marks left by deer mice, and also disseminated a bit about scientists who know their bones.
The next question was about foam coming from the side of a tree.
Again I had to confess I had no clue. I had noticed it before, but never had come across an explanation in my reading. So I made a guess. I had wondered, when I saw it before, if it was rising sap fermenting in the tunnel made by some sort of wood-boring beetle. Sounds good, at any rate. But then curiosity killed the cat. I googled “foam on trees”, and discovered it was “slime flux”, and caused by bacteria. So then, on top of admitting I didn’t know, I had to admit my wild guess scientific hypothesis was wrong, which no thinker enjoys doing.
Not the best day. Rather than the fresh and new, I get brought bones and bacteria, and get my fat ego humbled to boot.
In such situations I find it best to retreat from my position as an authority figure, and to just do my job, which is to watch the kids. Call it licking-my-wounds if you will, but it is what I do when it is not the best day.
When I am sulking in this manner I like to turn to old,reliable ways of cheering myself up, for example noticing the beauty of red maple blossoms.
This is what mists the treetops raspberry. They are so small few notice them.
They also make an interesting nibble, though I prefer the golden-green blooms of the sugar maple, but they weren’t out yet. Then I got a craving for beech buds, and sauntered over to a low hanging branch, and noticed something interesting. The buds were especially plump.
When I unwrapped the fat bud I discovered it was fatter than usual because rather than leaves it held a flower.
This is likely just another sign of rot. Our beech trees are stressed by a virus from Eurasia. When a tree is stressed, it makes nuts like crazy, attempting to reproduce before it dies. And now our beech trees are going the way of the American elm, chestnut, and butternut. Thank you very much, Internationalists. Our squirrels will starve. But we will have our revenge. An exploding population of American gray squirrels is running roughshod over the landscapes of Eurasia. (And it serves them right.)
As I contemplated this situation in my grumpy manner I absentmindedly nibbled the beech bud, and was surprised how good it was. The flowers sweeten the flavor. Then I remembered my job. I was suppose to be watching the kids, and they had become suspiciously quiet.
When I turned I saw I was a teacher, after all. I saw a line of quiet children strung out behind me like ducklings, or perhaps like small monkeys behind a daddy gorilla. They were all nibbling beech buds.
I figured that, if I’m stuck with the job, I’d better do it right, so I taught them, “You don’t want to eat too many of those things, or it will make your tongue feel all hairy.”
(Yet another little-known-fact from my vast store of wisdom.)
[Photo credits for “old bone” and “foaming tree” pictures go to Marlowe Gautreau.]
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.
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).
It was so beautiful I forgot my errand, and got out to wander into the swamp’s blueberry barrens.
It’s a good place to get the blue and orange reflected below, as well as above.
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.
I should likely start this post with a weather map, showing how even when a low swings out to sea, and a cold front pushes past with a following high pressure, sometimes the clouds refuse to depart. (Also note the low way up by Hudson Bay. If you think it doesn’t intend to plunge south and plauge New England, you lack the pessimism necessary to live here. If you don’t believe me, move here. It is right about now that lots of immigrants start screaming and ripping their hair out), (and they haven’t even met our black flies.)
This year has been typical, teasing immigrants (called “Flatlanders” around here) with balmy weather in March, seducing them into thinking spring is about to come this far north at the same time it came further south in their past, in the far away places they came from. As a bit of irony, temperatures hit 73° (23° Celsius) on April first, as an April Fool’s joke. And to totally tantalize the suckers from the south, a few trees such as swamp maples behaved as if they were about to burst into leaf, risking some early blooms. For proof, I offer you a picture from Farmer’s New Year (March 25).
Yet here it is, nearly 40 days later, and the swamp maple still haven’t leafed out. As the Flatlanders scream, the trees go “bwah ha ha ha.”
The trees are a lot smarter than the people around here, which makes sense, as they’ve lived longer. Of course, psychiatrists will object to my saying that, stating trees don’t have brains, and can’t think. Perhaps that is what makes trees smarter.
Regarding psychiatrists, I will say this much: Some of the kids we have had pass through our Childcare have been troubled, and they have been to psychiatrists, and also they have been to groves of pines. Guess which did nothing for the child’s bad mood (which some call “mental health”), and guess which healed the child’s hurt heart when humans couldn’t? (Oops, I gave the answer away, by using that word “humans”.)
People do have brains, but mostly it just gets us in trouble. For example, take the subject of “being in harmony in with nature.” This subject makes humans absolutely bonkers. In my time I have seen one actress hit by a bucket of red paint as she left a theater wearing a fur coat, and another actress sprayed with manure as she baked muffins in a pasture. (These ridiculous, yet real-life, cartoons come to you courtesy of Greenpeace.)
Whatever you may say about trees, they would never be caught dead doing anything like that.
We only have one life, but according to some the “One Life” goes on and on through countless incarnations, as our consciousness strives to be One with God’s.
I have enough trouble remembering where I put my car keys, and can’t remember what I was doing before I was born, but, according to some, a long, long time ago we ourselves were trees. If that is so, I can’t say we’ve learned all that much, in a million incarnations of evolution.
I got tremendous enjoyment from Tolkien’s trilogy when I came to the part where the “Ents” make an appearance, as “shepherds of the trees”. At our Childcare I have often regaled the children with tales and warnings about “walking trees”, even to the point where one young boy marched up to me one morning and informed me, “My dad says there is no such thing as walking trees.”
However Tolkien didn’t understand one thing about trees, and it is this secret: Their heads are in the soil, and their limbs reach up towards the sun. If a tree ever did wake up and walk, it would bring its limbs to the earth, rip its roots up, and you’d face a creature with a mane like a lion, but a mane filled with crumbling dirt. It would see you without eyes…….unless, of course, it was a potato.
Which works me around to the subject: I did get some potatoes planted today, with the help of small children at the Childcare. In theory it was a teaching experience. I’m never sure the youngest get what I am saying, which is that by sticking perfectly good food in the dirt we get ten to twenty times as much perfectly good food. It is the older kids, the hoary veterans aged four and five, those who had the fun of digging up the potatoes last fall, and roasting them by a fire, who have a glimmer of understanding. The younger ones are far more fascinated by earthworms.
I also dared transplant into the garden four kale plants, and six broccoli plants, just to gamble and prove even old geezers like me can live at the edge. I’ve seen killing frosts even this late, but I glanced at the sky, and consulted Weatherbell (my favorite long-range forecast site), and I stroked my white beard and looked wise, but in the end I consulted the trees. (It is a sign of our times, perhaps, that mere vegetables are so much smarter than the mainstream-media. I didn’t consult the mainstream-media at all.)
The carrots, beets, seedling kale, onions, garlic, fennel, turnips, seedling Brussels sprouts, and lettuce haven’t sprouted yet, nor will they ever sprout if I work too long and appear dull to the children, (for bored kids at a Childcare can trample a soft seedbed as hard as a parking lot in the twinkling of an eye), so I, as the wise master of small slaves, decided it was time to go for a walk, and consult the trees.
Abruptly I was stopped by a lovely bloom I pass every year without ever bothering to ask myself what it is. I always assumed it was some sort of cherry, (or perhaps a relative of blueberries, as its small cherries had a blueberry-like look, at the ends of their berries), but I never bothered be sure because usually everything busts out in May in such a rush you have no time to sort things out. But this year spring seems to be in slow motion, if not in suspended animation, and I have had time for things I never had time for before. Apparently one is never too old to learn, because I learned this bloom was one I’d read a lot about. Can you name it?
Some called this serviceberry. Why? Because in the old days the ground was too frozen to bury people in the winter. (Old timers told me that back in the day they stuck all old people who refused to do their chores in the “Town Tomb” in the fall, and in the spring they’d open it and any who didn’t walk out would get buried. This is a subject for another post, but I may include a picture of the “Town Tomb” at the end of this post, if I ever find the time to take one.) When the ground was finally soft enough to bury people, they would have a service, with this bush blooming around the edges of the graveyard, so it was called serviceberry.
Because the bush blooms so early, it is also the first to have berries, so it is also called “juneberry.” As eggs are just hatching and voracious fledglings are demanding, these berries are for the birds, and I was brought up to avoid “bird berries”, and have never tried them. I understand they are sour.
However the name I had heard much about, without ever identifying the actual plant it referred to, was “shadbush”. Back a few hundreds of years ago shadbush told you the shad were running, and then all else was dropped. Few shad came as far upstream as these hills, but a wonder of ancient, local laws was that people had to drop all quarrels when the shad, herring and salmon were running. You could be a Hatfield, and could travel to the hunting grounds of the McCoy’s, but you weren’t allowed to fight your worst enemy, when you were fishing. (Strange but true, and perhaps an example for modern man.)
Shad, dried and turned to powder, was a local ingredient of a local wonder-food called “pemmican”. Pemmican was one third powdered meat, one third powdered nuts and berries, and one third pure fat. The hunters who carried this food could travel a week or two with breakfast, lunch and dinner in a small bag. Apparently a spoonful now and again was all you needed, even while burning a lot of calories hunting. The ingredients varied from place to place, but it was common from coast to coast in America in the old days. Out west they likely substituted buffalo for shad, but eating three tablespoons a day didn’t seem to stunt anyone’s growth. When the first Europeans arrived in New England their men averaged around five feet five inches, as New Englanders averaged six feet.
The children regard me suspiciously when I tell them such tales. After all, I’m the same old geezer who tells them about walking trees. However they are interested in eating, and today they sampled wild mustard leaves, yellow dock leaves, and the inner part of the root of burdock. (These are the same kids who refuse to eat the really good food some mother’s prepare.) (One trick I use is to tell them, “You can spit this out if you want to. You probably won’t like it. Only grown-ups like it.” ) (To prove they are grown up, they try to like it even when they don’t.)
Locally the berry used in pemmican was usually blueberries, dried and powdered, probably because blueberries are easiest to dry, (but perhaps because blueberries have wondrous, modern stuff called “antioxidants” in them), (not that the word “antioxidants” was invented, back in the day.) But other berries were used as well, including a small berry that grows in the straw. Darned if I can remember its name, but the commercial variety is now as big as plum, while the native variety is as small as a pea. Whatever this berry-that-grows-in-the-straw is called, it usually blooms around now, but this spring has been so retarded I didn’t expect to see any. I checked, just the same, and there it was! The what-cha-call-it berry, blooming in the dead straw! (The children were not all that interested, likely because you can’t eat it yet.) (But they did tell me I was a dope, and the plants are called “strawberries.”)
And this is how I entertain myself, as the dull, gray, wet day passes. It may not seem all that entertaining to Flatlanders, but then, I am not the one going absolutely bonkers, just because the leaves don’t come out in April.
It’s a damp day, bright May-gray clouds low, With spring holding back like eyelash’s tears; Blossoms blinking, wet and drooping, although Most remain buds, and the forest appears Like winter’s, except for a green haze Indistinct midst wet twigs that string bright pearls Like veils over depth-green hemlocks. This day’s Drenched though rain’s stopped; boughs bow; and white curls Of shredded fog stand still on the dark slopes Of breathless hills. The clouds are so bright That all wet things shine; even shadow gropes With bright reflections. The shrouded might Of rebirth blends wild hope with foreboding, Silence with the sound of blossoms exploding.
However I should confess that entertaining myself in this manner takes a lot out of me. I huff and puff planting potatoes in a way that is downright embarrassing. Where entertainment once knocked my socks off, now I just wind up too tired to take my socks off.
Wives don’t approve of husbands flopping in bed with dirty socks on, but neither she nor my children will take pity on a weary old man. Granddaughters, however, are different. When my wife complains about socks, and I whine I’m too tired, a two-year-old granddaughter springs into action:
It all goes to shows you that, in terms of true intelligence, trees come in first, a two-year-old comes in second, and everyone else comes in a very, very distant third.
The frogs have gone silent. Spring is on hold As the forest reverts to wraps of white. The whining child complains he is cold Despite the high sunshine’s dazzling light.
How fickle is hope. A weather-vane’s swing From warm south to cold north invalidates The misty-eyed vows made when hope was king. Dethroned, he slinks to the shadows and waits.
Who will believe him, next time he strides forth? Has he no shame? No sense of remorse? And will I ever learn, or bet on the horse That threw me? It is par for the course That the whining child is soon seen heading For the hills, to go joyously sledding.
There are many reasons the workers at my Farm-childcare are fed up with winter, and this is only one of them: (Or actually over 50).
The spring peepers were singing for only a single day last week, and then the cold came charging back to shut them up. On Monday morning the drive to work crossed a dust of snow swirling on the frozen pavement. We were hoping the dusting would be only a dusting.
The weekend’s howling winds had flattened the basketball hoops.
And then it just snowed and snowed, until we had more than we got all winter, and pulling into work next day looked like this:
About the only consolation was that, in December, it would have been pitch dark at 6:15 AM.
We had to take things out that had been put away until next winter.
Some children got more exercise than others.
But the sun is as high as it is on Labor Day, and the snow can’t stay long.
A great project will never be completed, as the shell-shocked grass gets back to greening.
We had two successive mornings with temperatures down to 13 degrees (-10.6 Celsius) and nothing looked eager to bud out, however I noticed something, looking at the trees.
The lichen on the trunks of the trees had changed from an ashen gray to a very light pistachio green. I thought the kids might be interested in this, and told them to gather around, and explained a little about how lichen is actually two lives living together, a fungus and an algae.
I went on to explain how lichen can live in the frozen north, is completely untroubled by frost, and grows as soon as it gets above freezing. I explained moss also is quick to respond to the slightest warmth.
I can find this sort of stuff very engrossing, but when I looked up, expecting to see small faces filled with wonder, I saw my class was like April snow, and had faded fast.
Fortunately my wife didn’t see this interlude. She would have reminded me I’m suppose to keep my eyes on the children, not on the lichen.
There are signs and omens all over the place, if you care for such things. I used to care, but have lost interest over the years, largely because I could see little advantage in glimpsing the future. I never got a glimpse clear enough to tell me what stocks to invest in, I suppose. Rather I’d get a vague sense of whether I was in for tough times or easy times, and there was no way to avoid either. Lastly, when tough times did come, they were never as bad as worry made them out to be beforehand, and actually turned out to be the times I brag the most about surviving, when reminiscing. (When I remember the good times it is often with the wistful sense I blew it, in some manner.)
The one time signs are helpful is when you are very discouraged, and in need of an encouraging word. Our fellow man sometimes can be pathetic, when it comes to encouraging us. Even the people trying to be kind will propose some ridiculous diet or regime of exercise or ask you to contort yourself into yoga poses, when all you really need is a kindly glance. In such situations helpful friends can be downright depressing, and it is then that some sign, some bluebird landing on a nearby branch and singing, can be like a rope to a drowning swimmer.
Of course, if I became dependent on such signs I’d never get going in the morning. I have enough trouble getting started as it is, and if I needed a good omen before I proceeded I’d likely never get out of bed.
There was actually a time when I was young that I did demand life made sense, before I’d proceed, and I wound up very nearly paralyzed. I was deeply involved in the study of psychology, and at the slightest sign my behavior wasn’t adult I’d stop everything and analyse my every twitch. It was a good way to avoid getting a real job, and also acquainted me with the wonders of the subconscious, however in the end I had to get a real job even if life didn’t make sense.
At one point, before I got a real job, I was studying my dreams from every angle I could think of, and had a wonderful revelation. When you study dreams you, in a sense, make every action and every object within the dream be a symbol, and thus a sign. For example, if there is a road in the dream, it may symbolize “being-walked-upon”, (and you might even burst into tears when you have the insight that you feel trodden upon). The problem is that, before you get the first dream figured out, you tend to get tired and go to sleep and have another one. Studying all the symbols can get to be exhausting, and there is definitely no time left to look for a real job.
I had managed to arrange my life, as a young poet, in a way that allowed me to study dreams for days on end. Now I cringe, thinking of all the wasted time, but some good did come out of all the study. For one thing, I don’t waste time so much. I also suppose I understand the subconscious to some degree. However the revelation I wish to describe came after I had an overdose of dream-study, and decided I needed some fresh air, and went for a walk.
Because I’d been spending so much time analyzing objects in dreams, I was in the habit, and found myself analyzing the real objects in the real world as if they were symbols in a dream. I wasn’t trying to do it. In fact I was trying to stop. Yet I couldn’t. There wasn’t a leaf that fell that didn’t have some symbolic meaning. Maybe I didn’t know what the meaning was, but the meaning was there, as loud as thunder. I had wanted life to make sense, but now there was too much meaning, in every twig, in every birdsong, in every face in every passing car. It was a glorious and wonderful revelation, but I felt over my head and wanted it to stop. When it wouldn’t I went and bought a six pack of beer and got ossified, not to get high but rather to come back to earth. Then, when I awoke the next morning with a headache, I wondered why I had run away from the revelation. It was largely gone, though enough lingered to reassure me that life does make sense.
Due to that one event, forty years ago, I don’t scoff at people who gaze at stars, seeking astrological sense, or at teas leaves, or at the lines in palms, or at the entrails of goats. God really is in everything, even in the most dark, deplorable, and dismal situations. That is how the poet Wilford Owen was able to write, from the hideous trenches during World War One, “I too have seen God in mud.”
While I don’t scoff at those who seek to read things, I don’t have the time to follow them. Knowing the future doesn’t matter as much as how you behave when it gets here. The only time I adjust my behavior due to someone seeing the future is when I hear a storm may come, in a weather forecast, (and even then the forecast is often wrong. Also, these days, it is often absurdly sensationalized).
Rather than attempting to figure the Creator out, and know what He is up to, I tend to rest assured He knows what He is doing, even if I don’t particularly like it. This seems to open my eyes to beauty I’d otherwise miss. I don’t particularly like cleaning up after a snowstorm, but that doesn’t mean I can’t lean on my shovel and admire the view.
In this manner I’m able to admire the recent eclipse of the full moon, and the current conjunction of Venus, Jupiter and Mars in the morning sky, without getting all worked up and worried about what it all means. I can watch the leaves change and fall without getting all worked up about the onset of winter, (though I don’t forget to stack the wood).
The glory of what I call “Sugar Autumn” is ending, as we move into the less brilliant but still beautiful foliage of “Oak Autumn”. In parts of the woods without oaks, it is starting to be “Under-story Autumn,” where the tall maples have lost their leaves, but the young ones beneath are just starting to change.
It seems that the Creator set up the ecosystem around here in a way that gives the young trees a little time to enjoy the sun free from the shade of their elders. The sapling maples pop their leaves out a week before the taller ones in the spring, and lose their leaves a week after the taller ones in the fall. I’m sure a scientist can explain the reasons for this happening, but it doesn’t take anything away from the fact it is a wonderful design, and does allow the young time to grow, or at least subsist, until the old decide enough is enough and politely remove themselves from the sky by becoming increasingly rotten and the home of woodpeckers, or perhaps becoming firewood.
That is the sort of thing I contemplate, as I gaze upon Creation, and it seems wiser to me to appreciate beauty in this manner than to become worried, and in a sense to get in a fight with Creation. Too many people spend their entire lives avoiding what may never happen, and isn’t all that bad when it does happen. The reasons people give for the lessening of their lives are many, but it still remain a lessening. Some of the best advice I ever got may be the crudest, “Get over it.” For there are many ways to look at the moon.
And then the moon went on, westward through trees Now bare of leaves, with a glance back towards me Inviting. How could I follow? What frees My feet to walk where the moon walks? What plea Would it hear? All I could do was stand and yearn.
Once in a dream I walked those pearled highways But for fool’s reasons felt I should return: My mundane friends frowned on what disobeys.
Now like a grounded dodo I stand sad As all wear armor and only in dreams Does one walk nude in public. This world’s mad And burdened by leaden get-rich-quick schemes.
But the moon’s not burdened. Midst the mad glow Of cities it beckons those in its shadow.
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.
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. Also the phlox flowers in the garden were frozen. 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. You can see all those messy leaves all over the road. It’s enough to make you roll your eyes to heaven.
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.
The cold air has charged south, and it is colder in south Texas near the Gulf of Mexico than up here in southern New Hampshire, near the North Atlantic. At 2:00 AM, as I’m stirred by insomnia (and aching muscles due to leaf-raking,) it is fifty degrees warmer here than at the same latitude in Nebraska, 52 here and 2 there. (+11 here and -17 there, Celsius.)
It’s all coming this way. The snow has covered Canada and expanded down into the northern Great Plains in the USA, (though it has retreated in western Russia.)
However despite my dread about the approaching onslaught, I actually did live up to my resolution to avoid worry, and to enjoy the benign weather while it lasts. This stuff has happened before. An article from The Weather Review in 1896 describes warmth on the east coast, as it hit minus fifty in Montana: http://docs.lib.noaa.gov/rescue/mwr/024/mwr-024-11-0414.pdf (Article at bottom of page.)
I decided I should take care of the leaves in the pasture, before the snow presses then all down to a brown wad.
Most have to get a “burn permit” to burn leaves, (though many ignore the law), however the bureaucrats haven’t caught up to the farmers yet, and farms require no permit. If I was in the mood to worry, I’d worry about the inevitable fee for a farm-permit which our future will inevitably hold, but maybe I’ll get lucky and die first.
In any case, I took the easy route and burned the leaves out in the pasture, rather than lugging them all to the garden to use as mulch. (Rather than the drifts of leaves becoming a brown wad that kills the grass, the ashes will fertilize.) I was glad I did it, for it never fails to generate a lovely mood at the Childcare.
On the amber autumn afternoons When the forest has finished disrobing Before snow’s bed sheets tuck lullaby tunes, When Geese, who want to spin the globe, wing Silhouettes in western skies, my rake sighs Dry leaves to piles, and I lower to light One leaf with one match. The children’s bright eyes Spot the sight, and all rush up in delight.
The flames spread, the rake scuffs, and hours pass With nothing more needed, for few jobs draw So many helpers as turning a mass Of rustling leaves to hot, orange awe And the sweetest smog and the quiet delight Of sparks swirling up in a deepening night.