A Long and Gracious Fall
A long and gracious fall this year.
The leaves are down. Gardens: emptied,
manured, tilled, smooth, and waiting.
Mower and tiller serviced and put away.
Smoker put away, as is the summer table.
Prayer flags, windsocks and their poles: down.
Twenty-foot homemade badminton poles,
peace flag at the top of one, store-bought net—
all down and put away for another year. No more
outdoor summer chores.
Fall planting — peonies and tiger lilies — done.
Summer flower stalks removed, beds mulched,
a blanket for the cold. Fall pruning done.
Woodshed roof hammered down and sealed again.
Cellar closed. Drive staked and flagged so the
snowplow knows where to go.
What else is there to do? Finally, for once, we are ready
for the snow. Ready now to come inside. Time now for
words and music, poems and shakuhachi. Time now
to light some incense, sit and stare at candlelight.
This is the first morning to be below freezing at our house, and except for the now-dead geraniums on the porch, we have readied the house for winter. Although, when I sat on the cold steps at sunset yesterday, to pet the kitties, I spotted a tiny lavender pansy growing between the stones on the terrace– a lingering reminder of our ‘long and gracious fall’.
But, I love the words and music, poems and candlelight, of this new season. An author-friend of mine is having a video produced to promote her latest novel, As The Christmas Cookie Crumbles. She needed a fireplace as backdrop for the scene in which she talks to Santa, so I removed the velvet pumpkins from my mantle, and hurriedly put up some lighted greenery, lit a roaring fire, and she and the NBC crew did their video shoot in my living room last Friday. That was all I needed to jump-start my holiday decorations.
My daughter, Joy, and I had a conversation last week in which she said she was irrationally excited about the Christmas holiday this year. She was on her way home from a conference in Phoenix, and whilst sitting in 80 degree sunshine, she was planning her Christmas decorations. We talked about how it was probably an escape from politics, the shootings, the fires, the fears we have for our future. She said she wishes she could crawl into her enormous Christmas village, which glows in the bay window all through the holidays, and just live in there. The season of darkness is upon us. For me, staring at candlelight with fairy lights in the windows, is a way to embrace it all, and is a necessary part of winter preparedness. And there is joy there–like the kingfisher, in Wendell Berry’s poem–“Somewhere the night had accommodated him”.
From the porch at dusk I watched
a kingfisher wild in flight
he could only have made for joy.
He came down the river, splashing
against the water’s dimming face
like a skipped rock, passing
on down out of sight. And still
I could hear the splashes
farther and farther away
as it grew darker. He came back
the same way, dusky as his shadow,
sudden beyond the willows.
The splashes went on out of hearing.
It was dark then. Somewhere
the night had accommodated him
—at the place he was headed for
or where, led by his delight,