The Beauty of the Bone

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The stripped and shapely
Maple grieves
The ghosts of her
Departed leaves.

The ground is hard
As hard as stone.
The year is old
The birds are flown.

And yet the world,
Nevertheless,
Displays a certain
Loveliness—

The beauty of
The bone. Tall God
Must see our souls

This way, and nod.

Give thanks: we do,
Each in his place
Around the table
during Grace.
~John Updike  “November” from A Child’s Calendar

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The maple’s leaves have let go
in the wind and rain
in a bid for freedom,
swirling slowly to new adventure,
ending in a soft landing.

There they lay in leafy graveyard
atop others seeking release
from branching bondage,
each shaped differently
in designed diversity.

Once distinctive foliage,
so green and grand,
oak, chestnut, walnut,
dogwood, birch, maple
assimilated in color and wilt.

In death
mirroring each other
just as leaf buds
appeared indistinguishable
a mere eight months ago.

A ghostly mosaic of July shade,
they dress the ground
as they once adorned branches,
lifting and dancing
in the breeze.

Distressed and done,
fallen and sodden,
each one lies alone
together,
a carpeted coda to a summer past.

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Breadth and Depth

 

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Autumn is the eternal corrective. 
It is ripeness and color and a time of maturity;
but it is also breadth, and depth, and distance. 
What man can stand with autumn on a hilltop
and fail to see the span of this world
and the meaning of the rolling hills that reach to the far horizon?
~Hal Borland

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artistpoint2

Summer, waning and wistful, has packed up and moved on without bidding adieu or looking back over its shoulder.  Cooling winds have carried in darkening clouds spewing long overdue rain. Though we need a good drenching there are still onions and potatoes to pull from the ground, apples to harvest, tomatoes not yet ripened, corn cobs just too skinny to pick.

I’m not ready to wave goodbye to sun-soaked clear skies and the lush richness of summer.

The overhead overcast is heavily burdened with clues of what is to come: earlier dusk, the feel of moisture-filled air, the deepening graying hues, the briskness of breezes.  There is no negotiation possible.   I steel myself and get ready, wrapping myself in the soft shawl of inevitability.

So autumn advances with the clouds, taking up residence where summer has left off.  Though there is still clean up of the overabundance left behind, autumn has brought its own unique plans for display of a delicious palette of hues. It is an eternal corrective for what ails us.

The truth is we’ve seen nothing yet.

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A Harbinger of Something Harder

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How hard it is to take September
straight—not as a harbinger
of something harder.

Merely like suds in the air, cool scent
scrubbed clean of meaning—or innocent
of the cold thing coldly meant.

How hard the heart tugs at the end
of summer, and longs to haul it in
when it flies out of hand

at the prompting of the first mild breeze.
It leaves us by degrees
only, but for one who sees

summer as an absolute,
Pure State of Light and Heat, the height
to which one cannot raise a doubt,

as soon as one leaf’s off the tree
no day following can fall free
of the drift of melancholy.
~Mary Jo Salter “Absolute September”

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dillweb

I admit I’ve been clinging to summer, though the calendar says it is fall, the darker mornings say it is fall, and the coolness of the air necessitates turning on the furnace first thing to take the chill off. These last days of September bring on a drift of melancholy for time wasted during summer’s  pure state of light and heat and here we are again, reminded of our mortality and the shortness of our days.

And so the harder times are coming, there can be no doubt.  Wistful about whether I can weather it,  I am tugged, heart first, into October, ready or not.

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Recovered What Is Lost

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The songs of small birds fade away
into the bushes after sundown,
the air dry, sweet with goldenrod.
Beside the path, suddenly, bright asters
flare in the dusk. The aged voices
of a few crickets thread the silence.
It is a quiet I love, though my life
too often drives me through it deaf.
Busy with costs and losses, I waste
the time I have to be here—a time
blessed beyond my deserts, as I know,
if only I would keep aware. The leaves
rest in the air, perfectly still.
I would like them to rest in my mind
as still, as simply spaced. As I approach,
the sorrel filly looks up from her grazing,
poised there, light on the slope
as a young apple tree. A week ago
I took her away to sell, and failed
to get my price, and brought her home
again. Now in the quiet I stand
and look at her a long time, glad
to have recovered what is lost
in the exchange of something for money.
~Wendell Berry “The Sorrel Filly”

tonypony

On the final day of summer, it seems much is lost. I struggle to stay awake to each passing moment, wanting to hang on tight to what has just disappeared into the ether of time.

These lost moments are not for sale; there is no price high enough. They can be recovered, treasured up, stored away.

Never to be forgotten.

homertony

Late Summer Hay Fields

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A second crop of hay lies cut   
and turned. Five gleaming crows   
search and peck between the rows.
They make a low, companionable squawk,   
and like midwives and undertakers   

possess a weird authority.

Cloud shadows rush over drying hay,   
fences, dusty lane, and railroad ravine.   
The first yellowing fronds of goldenrod   
brighten the margins of the woods.
Schoolbooks, carpools, pleated skirts;   
water, silver-still, and a vee of geese.
~Jane Kenyon from “Three Songs at the End of Summer”
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rows

By now the fields have survived
A first, and even second cutting
Mowed and tedded
Raked and baled, scalped clean then
Rained upon in spurts and spells.

The grass blades rise again, reluctant-Certain of the cuts to come;
No longer brazen, reaching to the sky
With the blinding bright enthusiasm of May and June endless days,
But shorter, gentle growth of late summer golden sunsets.The third cutting sparse and short as thinning hair
Tender baby soft forage, light in the hands and on the wagon
Precious cargo carried back to the barn;
Fragrant treasure for vesper manger meals
A special Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve gift.

Once again the fields are bare, aching for cover
Which comes as leaves rain and swirl in release,
Winds buffet, offering respite of deepening winter
Snowdrifts, blanketing in silent relief and rest
Until patiently stirred by melting soaking warmth
To rouse again, reaching toward the light.
~EPG

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Let Me Remember

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Lyric night of the lingering Indian Summer,
Shadowy fields that are scentless but full of singing,
Never a bird, but the passionless chant of insects,
Ceaseless, insistent.
 
The grasshopper’s horn, and far-off, high in the maples,
The wheel of a locust leisurely grinding the silence
Under a moon waning and worn, broken,
Tired with summer.
 
Let me remember you, voices of little insects,
Weeds in the moonlight, fields that are tangled with asters,
Let me remember, soon will the winter be on us,
Snow-hushed and heavy.
 
Over my soul murmur your mute benediction,
While I gaze, O fields that rest after harvest,
As those who part look long in the eyes they lean to,
Lest they forget them.
~Sara Teasdale “September Midnight”
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fullirishmoon
When time stands still,
and it does, for an instant
before moving on, relentless,
I balance barely on that moment~
tipping backward to what has been,
leaning forward to what will be,
and forgetting this, now, here
until I look long into your eyes
and know you too are
now, here, this-
locked together,
leaning in
so we won’t fall
as winter comes,
so we will remember.
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A Zucchini Chronicle

zuke1

blossompunkin

It started innocently enough in April
with two-leaf seedlings labeled green and golden;
non-descript squash plants harboring
hidden potential.

By June the plants crept across the ground with vines
reaching past the beans to confront the cucumbers;
going where no vine has gone before
to divide and conquer, leaving no dust untouched.

July buds formed blossoms inviting bees deep
into yellow-throated pollen pools
thickening within days to elongated flesh:
fecundity in action before our eyes.

The finger-like projections at first harvested
too small, but temptation overwhelms patience;
sauted, grilled with garlic, superb in
supreme simplicity.

But come back a day later: hose-like vines
pumping into each squash, progressive inflation like
balloon-man creations to be twisted and transformed,
but too plump, too distended, too insatiable.

It’s a race to keep up with the pace of production
eat some, give them away, leave on doorsteps like abandoned kittens,
in boxes in church lobbies, lunch rooms at work,
food banks posting signs: “No more zucchini please!”

They march in formation in the garden path
as they are yanked swelling from their umbilical cords
and lined up, stacked, multiplying
like the broom fragments of the “Sorcerer’s Apprentice”.

Once tossed on to the compost pile,
they rest in intimate embrace through heated decomposition
in dead of winter, amid steam rising,
a seedling, innocent enough, pokes through exploding with potential~

Run for your lives!

zuke4

zuke3