Crimson leaves at the very top of the old maple mean its no longer late Summer, but Autumn. It seems a bit early this year, but lately the future seems a bit early . Through the open kitchen window, a scene of saturated deep yellow goldenrod stands vividly moving in gentle breezes creating waves of colored haze, even though the day is crystal clear . Even as the light dazzles, the emerald lawn has stopped growing—-a transitional pause in a greater scheme.
The deer stopped trekking on the north side, nibbling on the berry bushes and salad-days hosta; stopped sipping from that underground spring that burst forth from a tractor rut in the Spring; and are now silent from munching on those top heavy hydrangea the fawns especially liked. They hang around this old farm seeking shelter in the thicket of overgrown forest and marsh that surrounds it and separates it from the mountain . Sensible ones, the deer have gone back up into the Green Mountains, leaving behind danger. Is it because the fawns are grown now? Danger? The cold inky night carries the sounds of coydogs, whose jackal howl is not communal like the coyote, fox or wolf.
Sometimes, drunken young ‘fun’ hunters are worse than danger. Their elders know the value of meat and stealth. They, however, live slaughter as a CD game. Strange bitter thoughts creep in like shadows. I wonder why that's so easy and get back to the window before the magic becomes blind. Come to think of it, what happened to that wily fox? Is he looking out of his burrow and losing track in a reverie?
We miss the deer, but don‘t miss the woodchucks. Turns out that Henry the Woodchuck was ‘Henrietta’ and dropped five little munch buckers who, thanks to our ’Have-A -Heart’ trap , are now matriculating across the bridge in the wild flower meadows of Bennington College. The Geese are gone too. Only one of the hatchlings survived the road-crossing journey to the pond out back. Daily, his puffy yellow/gray gosling waddle grew elegant with feathers and eventual flight.
Other critters more favored, such as ‘Buns Buggy,' born near the warmth of the southside foundation, continue to thrive and eat dandelions on the lawns. When T first discovered her down nest in the spring while weeding, he often sang to her. So that now even from across an acre, she will pause and listen as he hums tunes while going about chores.
The gardens that matter are fenced and flying Tibetan prayer flags in place of deathly scarecrows. The tomatoes are burgeoning on that side of the garden. Now we know why everyone else around here grows the same ornamentals. They are munch-free phlox, daylilies, black-eyed Susan's, echinea, wild daisies, vibrant blue thistles, and other bitter but beautiful plants. Harry Hound’s memorial garden abounds in silver ear, nasturtiums, portuloca and blue salvia. The bronze sun dial above his eternal resting spot points to the warmth of South, and is permanently set to noon o’clock in the day. At night it is decorated overhead by an immense ‘Big Dipper'.
The stars are brilliant this far north, and now sparkle in cadence to cricket symphonies all through the night. We think of Harry nearly every day in one way or another, sometimes pausing to say “Harry", but then don’t, because Bodhi is alive and would like a dog treat—-thank you. His spirit, however, is lighted with every song that touches our soul.
Why should I suffer
From worldly passions
Have I not give up my life
Even before I saw the light?
(the poet/monk Ryokan early 1800’s)
We knew instinctively, even through the bitter pain, that Harry’s death last summer was a season all onto itself. I can’t imagine what the death of a child must be like, but know that ‘look’ on the faces of parents who live beyond it. It is the look of sojourners past the portal who look on all events with an extraordinarily gentle intensity. Harry’s spirit curls up on the bed at night, warmth in continuance as Bodhi Dog, in his own distinctively unique way carries forward unqualified love. When Bodhi does the ‘kick-legs roll'y dog’, I still see Harry too and delight. Looking out the kitchen window at the light, the yellow goldenrod, the life, I dream through the screen and then catch myself—-daydreaming again. I thought I’d never be one of those old timers who live in the past, but damn if the vivid dance of continuity doesn’t offer its irresistible beat of poignant joy! And if not joy, then that momentary contentment found in a profound smile given to oneself.
Back to the window and the garden you dreamy old fox! See its visual chaos? In June, it was a bundle of posts, fencing and plants wrapped with a ribbon bow for T’s birthday. Then it was a carefully measured 20' X 20' plot of rich earth cleared near the big barn. Under the soil only a few stones were found, unlike most of Vermont, where Yankee granite was the ‘hard’ of character and the essense of building. Here lay the partial ruins of a venerable sandstone foundation, no doubt gathered from the banks of the Walloomsac River that runs down the end of the front acreage. These fragile golden stones are probably very old, and laid before the acquisition of expensive quarried granite in this colonial habitat.
Then came the spiral star of flat stones for weeding and kneeling/gathering purposes. At the center sits a ‘cairned-up’ tower decorated with a dozen colorful little river stones piled in the manner of memorial Holocaust graves, and for much the same reason—-each one a memory. On top sits a hallowed rock called a ‘tsubai‘, which has been carried from place to place for decades. Once, it served to wash hands with a bamboo dipper, but now serves friendly birds who brave the flapping prayer flags to drink of sweet well water. Their splashing falls on the herbs T has planted at the base: basil, rosemary, dill, tarragon, sage, and thyme.
Now, the whole is a rambunctious jungle of rainbow growth: peppers, eggplant, melons, garlic; an exuberant cornucopia of harvest, overgrown and tumbling with fruit, vegetables and late orchid flowers of yellow, white, and lavender on tomato, potato, and bean stalks. I’ll remember you, Sleeping Beauty, in the deep white snow of winter.
Just to the outside of the window lies a multi-colored slate stone terrace, bordered by a cutting garden of Peace roses, cosmos, bishop’s crook, burgundy/crimson dahlias and other flowering beauties kept secure by a tumbled, piled-up granite stone rampart. Near, closest to the house, is the lilac which held that scrawny newborn robin, naked as a jaybird. It was probably a jaybird or crow that caused his disappearance just about the time he was ready to fly. The sight of a crow, Grackles as we sometimes call them, always disturbs my peace. They migrate in swarms of hundreds, settling into the pines with an ugly powerful cawing and threatening presence of beak and talons. The Haiku poets loved them, especially in autumn and winter. I don’t:
a plum tree
On a bare branch
A crow settles
This snowy morning
How hateful—-that black crow
But he's beautiful!
Where black crows must fulfill a spoiling destiny, I miss the red robin and rapture in the rare heron that visits the river, flying low over the house to the pond as Mother Nature's blue/grey angel.
Another lilac, an ancient stand by lilac standards and forested with several dozen spire branches is more clearly seen from the window straight ahead, slightly off the descent to the white birch grove . It lies before the roof outlines of the old coot who lives beyond with a Bush/Cheney bumper sticker on his mailbox.
It was the Lilac Spring only a few months ago. Where a pale violet cloud floated out there beyond the kitchen window. We had waited through a winter of heavy white snow for its appearance. Delightful. Fragrant. Renewing. And then the surprise: high up some thirty feet tangled among monkey vines and Golden Locust, the lofty tops of a venerable white lilac appeared, a ghost from early farm days—-planted by a busy woman who enjoyed its glory while washing dishes, peeling potatoes, thinking about babies, or dreaming of other places. I do the same, except for the babies. But then the woodchuck kits might count.
The lilac is brown now, grown out and its faded husks crusty—-should have pruned them, but didn’t. Not far from this seasonal decline, bright red and yellow maple leaves have fallen on the green grass, due most probably to the oncoming chilly nights. I think of Italian brocades and those beautiful ribbons I remember from ancient holidays that transformed from gold to red or green if you turned them just so in the light.
The light of storms is dazzling this time of year. Sheet lightening, green ozone air, red pole lightening, and loud claps of rolling thunder create exciting havoc as West collides with East this far north. Best of all, just before the advent, animals and birds grow absolutely still. Bodhi and I sit on the porch and watch it happen. They echo the passionate movements of Vivaldi, Mozart, or Beethoven preparing for the reflective cortege that follows strife.
That might be rain pattering;
Perhaps the trees in the ravine are whispering.
Or the maple leaves scattering
In a whiff of breeze at midnight.
Out the window, who would have thought that metaphors are not once removed like passing memories, but the active imagination of a concurrent dimension? This must be why late folks hear the clicking of clock tocks more keenly than say, drunk young hunters, or old foxes trying to pay attention, focus on the task at hand and scroll the fantasisms of the perfectly natural unfolding out the kitchen window.
Of course I do not shun the world;
I have just fallen into this groove
And have lived on till now
Yes, just this and nothing more.
It is not enough to experience the wonders alone, observe the passing of the seasons alone, or embrace them alone. There is always the desire to turn and say, "'T' you must see this,"or "Bodhi, come here, you are missing the good part," even when Bodhi doesn't see what I see. I think– "becoming fully human." Alone is not the same as loneliness, and one of the great gifts of life is the fortune to be able to turn and share the moment with someone much loved. Even richer is to share the context in stories related to mixed reference of past experiences and future implications.
Maples on the mountain
No longer shine!
For when you are gone
How can they?
T and Bodhi have just pulled into the driveway returning home from running errands. I turn from the window:
“All at once I hear your voice and time just slips away.
And nothing they say can hold me here.’
The next new now begins.
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