Summer’s Farewell

September has been a long, lingering sip of wine for me. In my youth, I was thoughtlessly busy with the beginning of school, homework, new friends and harvesting on the farm. This year I have slowed to a crawl and savor the heat and dry days while letting go of my former life yet again. I’m facing the fact that I will never return to work with the public as a teacher, writer or artist. The crone’s inward turning after 60, release of old blood ties and obligations, and a new gratitude for simply waking up every day have replaced the angst in my fifties.

I am grateful daily for the little dramas and triumphs I find in my small urban lot–the spiders who live or die by what ends up in their web, a mockingbird’s virtuoso performance all day long in the backyard, the monarch’s heroic journey as it finds respite from the Tithonia or zinnia of its homeland before heading south, and the late-planted poppies that insist on flowering no matter how late in the season.

I hesitate before planting my fall crops, afraid to break the spell of this enchanted late-summer slumber before the hard frosts. I know the cold will come but I’m in no great rush, lulled by the soft song of tree frogs and crickets amid the whir from grasshopper’s wings that continue to fairy dance on languid evenings. Winter will come soon enough, but until then I pause on the doorstep, listening to the faint echo of summer’s retreating footsteps.

Staying Strong


A dear writer friend and I went in search of oaks and acorns this week after a lovely lunch at my favorite local coffee shop. The walk was a welcome reprieve from the swirling chaos of horrific news and bad human behavior that we futilely attempted to recognize and understand over delicious fare, supporting the hardworking small business that bravely hopes to make a living in a fickle and uncertain industry.

The weather was amazing. If ever there was a reference picture for a perfect fall day, this was it. A slight, crisp breeze with the hint of cider, clear autumn-blue sky lacking summer’s haze, spots of ruddy blush as the leaves turn. I had a specific tree in mind for my friend to see, one that I pass every day on my morning walks before my hot cup of reward at that same coffee shop.

I call her The Grandmother, the ancient one who all the others surround. She existed before the military fort was built over a hundred years ago and wisely left standing when the army cleared the land. From her carefully manicured limbs, you can tell she’s been well cared for and honored through the years.

Towering over the rest of the former parade grounds, she doesn’t need the maples’ flashy foliage or the fir trees’ decorative pinecones to assume her throne with quiet dignity. On this particular day, her leaves had yet to turn gold, although the afternoon light that hit the highest branches already suggested a change to come. How many years had she worn her golden crown, I wondered as I pulled my head back as far as it would go.

Her acorns were few, a job left to younger trees as part of their service in exchange for her wise counsel. No doubt her roots connect to all, not just the young oaks, but to maple, gum and walnut trees that dot the landscape. She sends them messages of reassurance and fortitude earned from more than a century’s experience with drought, wind and lightning. She has seen preparations for war, and still remembers the young soldiers who stood in formation beneath her boughs, never to return.

On a late afternoon, I too stand under her protective shade and wish that she could share with me, with all of flailing humanity, the truth of what she has seen, an impartial telling of our human history from the view of one whose heartbeats send out the sap of life-affirming support through underground capillaries of ancient understanding, to those who are right or wrong, deserving or not.

And in her presence,  I humbly ask for guidance, knowing that in these turbulent times we all need to call on the strength of oaks.

From Where the Sidewalk Ends


Somehow, February got away from me. And then March. The days just slipped away through a hole in the floor, the grate, the ground, the sidewalk and ultimately, my soul. So, I search for them along the loop I walk most mornings that harbors mature oaks, maples and evergreens that have been around since this former army fort was established in the early 1900s. And some trees have been here long before that.

The other day, I noticed that a tree company had shown up and marked many long-standing sentries with ominous red x’s spray-painted on their trunks, or orange tape throttling their worn bark. There were too many to ignore, and some choices were downright puzzling. Sure, there were those that were mostly dead, or lopsided. But quite a few looked perfectly fine.

One morning before I left on a long trip, my walking partner and I marched around the loop saying a quiet goodbye and blessing to each of the doomed ones. The rumblings of the chainsaw and shrieks from a chipper could already be heard at the other end of the long parade, seemingly lined up like good soldiers waiting to be struck down by an enemy who claimed friendly fire, as if fire was ever friendly for a tree.

By the time I returned in mid-March, the sadly singled out were all gone, and in their places stood mounds of chips, where their very roots had been sought and ground out of existence. The innocent smell of freshly cut wood wafted in the breeze.

I still feel their ghosts as I walk, searching the sidewalks for a glimpse of the bottomless holes with their shimmering deceptions of days that are no longer there.

Rites

IMG_4720

Gather your daffodils and
violets, place them
in a bud vase.

Check a nest for robin
eggs, make sure
they match the sky.

Listen to the tree
peepers, write some
lyrics for their tunes.

Dig down deep after
final frosts, and give
the worms their due.

April Love Prompt: Spring (Earth Day)

This year I’m celebrating National Poetry Month by combining  NaPoWriMo’s daily poetry challenge with Susannah Conway’s April Love daily photo prompts on Instagram. Each day of April, you will observe the same photo in my Instagram feed on the righthand sidebar that you see in my blog post along with an instapoem. We shall find out at the end of the month whether this was a brilliant career move, sheer laziness or a fool’s errand. 

Until then, care to join me in these creative waters where even fools fear to tread? The water’s fine.

Snow on the Mountain

setting sun on candytuft

Give me this kind

of drift any day while

the frosty magnolia

sheds its blooms, when

pear petals precipitate

upon grounded shooting

stars, and loose dust from

dandelions covers sweet

woodruff whispering at

a birch’s foot, the peels

of bark pages telling

our triumphant tales

about surmounting

winter’s summits.

NaPoWriMo #28

I’m writing a poem every day in April as part of NaPoWriMo’s celebration of National Poetry Month. Won’t you join me in poetry?

There She Goes

Wasn't first to arrive at the party this year.

She sprinted by in an instant. If you weren’t paying attention, you missed her. If you were, say, too busy sneezing or fending off the latest fashionable super bug, you failed to feel the gentle breezes. While you were standing in lines for those spanking new iPads or latest dystopian flick, you couldn’t see the deflated magnolia petals falling like bitter disappointment on the lawns. If you worked without respite in the futile race against obsolescence, as I have done these last two weeks, you were unaware of the fleeting grand finale of rebirth that burst over the land, leaving only traces of spent flower casings and the whiff of pollen sulfur, like early morning after the Fourth.

Summer, with all his brazenly tanned groupies and larger-than-life boombox, waits impatiently at the door.

On the Bench

This worn seat holds my time out, the corner I put myself in when I no longer play nicely with others. It holds me in peace as I gaze upon my days with the eye of the beholder.

My family laughs at me for photographing this yard relic religiously in every season.

Here it is in winter, when snow and ice become frequent visitors:

In spring and summer, it provides rest for the weary gardener:

And now in autumn, it gives just the right advantage to look back on time spent in the cycles of the year:

That distance can mean everything.