The iPhoto program on my computer occasionally displays a photo from some file saying, “on this date…”. My iPhone actually comes up with a little movie of photos from some distant year, set to random music. I usually find these annoying as I would prefer to remember what I want to remember, when I want to remember it. But, this photo which I took last August, captures how surreal, spooky almost, that life feels right now. We were in Spokane–probably for one of Don’s bike races–and had a lovely walk one morning around the newly refurbished Riverside Park downtown. I remember thinking how strange it felt to see the old carousel now behind glass, and how the horses looked trapped in an endless loop, round and round, cut off from the world.
Of course, here we humans are, a year later, trapped by a virus. I miss our loved ones, fear for our teachers and grandkids back in school, and worry if one of us so much as sneezes at our house. Add the suffocating wildfire smoke blanketing the western states, and now Hurricane Laura today in the Gulf Coast–threatening to have an “unsustainable storm surge”–it’s no wonder so many of us are on edge, grumpy and irritable. And, I’m not even talking about the overarching despair about this president, or our fears about the upcoming election, let alone Black Men shot in the back, and armed “citizens” in the streets fighting protestors.
I try and just focus on the weather. I was reading a novel the other day in which two of the characters had endless discussions about the weather, so they wouldn’t have to have a real conversation. Some people click on the headlines every hour, but I check the NOAA site and Accuweather and the Weather Channel. If I see a shift in the waves on the lake, I go back to the computer and try and understand the winds aloft, or the closed low pressure system up north, or how the California smoke can reach us. And, of course, this late in August, there are now so many signs of Fall, which always lifts my spirits. I walked up our road a few days ago to cut some lavender thistle for a vase in the dining room, and every time I stepped into a shadow, I could feel that distinct coolness which reads autumn. There are long golden shadows in the afternoons, and different flocks of birds seem to be gathering together in bushes and trees, getting ready for their big flight south. The leaves on the trees are making a new clacking sound when they blow in the wind, and Canada Geese are gathering into V’s over the yellow stubble in the wheat fields. The mornings are darkening fast–maybe too fast–it brings such melancholy and sadness to bid farewell to our short summer. But, there is peace in noticing that the earth is, indeed, faithfully turning on her axis, that the quarter moon is high in the night sky, and we will keep going round and round, just like always.
BY Seamus Heaney
Late August, given heavy rain and sun
For a full week, the blackberries would ripen.
At first, just one, a glossy purple clot
Among others, red, green, hard as a knot.
You ate that first one and its flesh was sweet
Like thickened wine: summer’s blood was in it
Leaving stains upon the tongue and lust for
Picking. Then red ones inked up and that hunger
Sent us out with milk cans, pea tins, jam-pots
Where briars scratched and wet grass bleached our boots.
Round hayfields, cornfields and potato-drills
We trekked and picked until the cans were full,
Until the tinkling bottom had been covered
With green ones, and on top big dark blobs burned
Like a plate of eyes. Our hands were peppered
With thorn pricks, our palms sticky as Bluebeard’s.
We hoarded the fresh berries in the byre.
But when the bath was filled we found a fur,
A rat-grey fungus, glutting on our cache.
The juice was stinking too. Once off the bush
The fruit fermented, the sweet flesh would turn sour.
I always felt like crying. It wasn’t fair
That all the lovely canfuls smelt of rot.
Each year I hoped they’d keep, knew they would not.