Tag Archives: Time

Autumn In Engleville

Yes, indeed, Autumn has arrived.

You can know by the colors of the trees, the honking Canada geese, the fog-laced mornings.

October Sunrise

Misty Morning

We can know it by the heavy dew that clings til afternoon. By the honey bees, hurriedly trying to build a hive in the siding of the old house. We can know it by the visits of neighbors from nearby states. What I call home every day of the year is a destination for them. Camp. The woods. Far from Boston or Springfield or Framingham.

Morning Trail

We can know it from the noisy School Bus so early in the morning, orange as a pumpkin and lit with Halloween lights. From the darkness that arrives in time for supper now, no longer the farmer, stretching the day to nine o’clock.

Bus Stop

We can know it by the murmurings of Starlings, Blackbirds, Cowbirds, as they fly over the house in columns a mile long. They stretch as far as the eye can see, from the horse farm at Hanson’s Crossing, over Engleville Pond and the Corporation land, up the face of Victory Mountain and on over the hill into Cherry Valley.

Starling Sunset

We can know by the ag trucks with their fat tires, hauling open loads of silage from the cornfields, the bits blowing all about, drifting and floating in the air and on the road, a premonition of that famous winter precipitation. (We can’t use the “S” word yet.) By the stripped and bare fields, devoid of green and crops, an occasional corn stalk standing silent, lonely vigil for the passing of comrades.

Last Corn Standing

Now the pickup trucks will line the back roads. Every man, woman and child embracing the fall fashions; boots, hunter orange, vests, fluorescent hats.  After bow season, these woods will once again roar and rumble to the sound of gunfire. Close your eyes and imagine the Revolutionary War battle of Cedar Swamp, fought just three miles from here.

Huntsmen

Everything that is leaving is on its way now. Everything that is staying is feverishly preparing for the next season. Birds will migrate south from here, a thousand miles, or two, or three, to their winter homes in Mexico, the Yucatan and Patagonia. Lemmings will make their way across the Canadian border unimpeded, seeking the “warmer” climate of the Maine Seacoast.

Saying Goodbye

Around the ranch, many annual chores, duties and traditions repeat themselves. Time for lawn mowers to slow down, the wheelbarrow to rest. Time to decorate for Harvest and Halloween and on into the “big holiday season”. Time for pointed shovels and iron rakes to trade places with leaf rakes and those big, plastic shovels to move you-know-what.

There are no defined stops and starts for me and my Earth. No delineation; here is summer, and- across this line- here is autumn. The days and seasons follow on one another and blend as they pass. Like the water feeding the creek, it is always arriving and yet simultaneously always leaving.

Ellie and the leaf pile

Like the grandchildren who will not stop growing up despite my pleading, the blue ball turns at her own pace. And I ride along it like a child on a roller coaster. My hands gripping, white-knuckled, wind sweeping through my hair. A mile-wide smile, and sometimes a whoop or squeal of delight. Up, up, up clatters the chain drive, propelling me on. And then…

Harbinger

Take care, and keep in touch.

 

Paz

 

Wonders in the Woods

Rerun- This post was originally published in January, 2016 on Armchair Zen.

To the Woods!

To the Woods!

Headed out into the Magic on this New Year’s Day with two of my favorite beings.

Of course my canine companion Chuy was the catalyst, and my grandson Max joined us in the 28-degree air. In my super-eager, always-ready grownup fashion, we were striding past the barn before I realized Max hadn’t any gloves, and was rather underdressed for an hour or two of outdoor play. Back to the house, and he donned my spare “jumpsuit”, some gloves, hat & scarf. Now we were ready. We headed up the runway to the rifle range, and at the crest of the hill Chuy crossed through the hedgerow to “The Widowmaker”, a big hayfield which has seen many radio-controlled airplane crashes, and has claimed the scale pretend lives of many scale pretend pilots.

“Can we go to the woods?” Max asked.

Inside my forced-order grownup brain, the responses line up:”Well, your dad is on the way over to pick up you and your sister. He might be here soon, and we don’t want to keep him waiting. It’s a bit of a hike over the hill, and I hadn’t planned on it. And it’s pretty cold.”

What came out of my mouth: “Sure we can!

As we walked the treeline atop the Widowmaker, a sudden thunder exploded nearby on our left. In a flurry of wingbeats, a ruffed grouse made its escape, placing trees and distance between it and us. “Partridge!”, Max declared. “Never saw him.”, I replied.  As we entered the hardwood stand, the ground before us was free of snow, a blanket of tan, brown and bleached leaves carpeted the forest floor, ankle-deep and noisy.

“Which do you like better, winter or summer?” Max inquired.

This was met with a lengthy response about all the things there are to love about summer, followed by all the things to love about winter, a circling and recircling diatribe that ended where we started, without a real direct answer to the direct question. The summary was a vague “there are so many things to enjoy in both seasons, one precluded from the other, resulting in sort of a tie.”

As we walked through the woods, the ground seemed to crumble beneath our feet often. The sensation was one of walking on foot-deep piles of saltine crackers. A crunching sound followed by our boots sinking 3 or four inches into the humus. We stooped for a closer look. Upon examination, we found most of the ground to yield crystal structures rising six inches out of the soil.

“Crystals.”, I marveled, to which my companion replied “Are they valuable?”

Crystals of the Forest

Crystals of the Forest

This lead to a dissertation about the definition of crystals, crystalline structures, common types of crystals, and their definitions as common, semi-precious and precious gems. I theorized about the formation of these dirty glass ice crystal structures. We had a warm spell, and some rain, followed by a dip into temperatures well below freezing. Water evaporating from the ground met freezing air, and the crystals formed.

Dirt Diamonds

Dirt Diamonds

“Can we go look at the creek?” was Max’s next request.

Again, my brain tickled through a file of grownup reasons why we might not, followed by the exclamation “Sure!”.On the way we saw some interesting tree-ear formations, and I stopped to take a photo.

“They look more like tree noses.” said Max, and I agreed.

Tree Noses

Tree Noses

At the Little Beaver Creek, ice rimmed both sides of the frigid, flowing water. We stepped on the ice at the bank and it crunched underfoot. Then we had to throw rocks onto the ice on the opposite shore, trying to break through. The rocks were frozen into the ground on the creek banks, and we had to kick them to free them from their resting places. Three million years it took that rock to get there, and suddenly in one day it moves 20 feet. Changing the course of geological history, we pelted the ice to no avail.

Max vs. Ice

Max vs. Ice

Along the North Loop trail we came across a shotshell wad, and Max narrated last weekend’s rabbit hunting.

“I was here,” he began, taking his position and holding his arms in shotgun-wielding formation, “and Pierce was over there.” Max gestured to the other side of a tangle of brush. “He called ‘Are you ready, Max?’, and kicked the brush. The rabbit went right through here,” a sweeping arc of the arm, indicating the bunny’s course, “and BAM! BAM! I shot twice, but missed him.”

Conservation of angular momentum is the cosmic force brought to bear on objects circling other objects in space, the push & pull, the yin and yan of gravity versus centrifugal force resulting in an orbit. Some orbits are close, such as that of our moon. Some orbits are millions and millions of miles long, often ellipses, hanging a tight turn around their gravitational anchor, then sling-shotting off into the far reaches of solar systems and galaxies. Objects moving through space are affected by the pull of the objects they pass. Sometimes ever-so-slightly altering their course by degrees over millennia. In other cases, objects are drawn close, and the cosmic dance begins between host and satellite, and the once-free and boundless travelers become residents, orbiting moons or rings of debris.

My days and times with my grandchildren affect me in similar ways. I am pulled from the ultra-ordered, prepared-for-retirement, insured-for-everything, time-honored traditions of middle-aged American patriarchs, and drawn back into the world of wonder, the endless hours of childhood. To walk almost aimlessly, to stop and identify every type of scat. To play at edges from which grownups recoil. Throwing rocks onto ice, skirting the near-freezing water without cares, without worries of “what would happen if…?”

What would happen if we fell into the swiftly-moving current, plunging muscles and lungs into 34-degree water wearing 10 pounds of clothes?

“It would be a bad thing if Chuy went into the creek and couldn’t get back out.” Max observed, as the old dog approached the banks of the Little Beaver Creek. It was a parallel of too-grownup thought, the same things I am thinking about the boy. The boy on the brink of becoming a man. Let’s not hurry that, okay? Let’s have another year, another winter, another walk in the woods, where you are a child of Neverland, and worries are unwelcome. A place and time before you set out on that endless highway of adulthood. Before you fall into the traps, reading the road signs “What would happen if…?

“He’ll be fine.” I answer casually, carefully concealing the legitimacy of his concern. “Not likely to happen.”

Max the meteor streaks past Grandfather planet. I am pulled toward him by the unseen forces, trying to hold him.

He pulls back, as a glorious tail stretches out across the cosmos, hurtling by me at phenomenal speed.

My orbit affected, I reach out with my own unseen force, and try to grab that tail.

Max Meteor

Max Meteor

Be at peace,

 

Paz

 

 

The Cottonwoods

Barn & Cottonwood

See that big Cottonwood tree on the left? I planted that tree. When I did so, it was a little twig no longer than my arm. Now, about 25 or 30 years later, it stands about sixty feet tall, as you can see in reference to the barn.

Everyone should plant a tree. Somewhere, sometime, whether on your own piece of land or in a park or wild forest. The thrill of climbing a tree you planted!

Originally, there were 7 or eight. Forming a line along the north edge of our property. Two did not make it past the critical “wonder years” for trees, and died off rather young. In their places we tried a little maple one of the kids brought home from school, and in another spot some blueberry bushes given to us by neighbor friends. The little maple also failed to thrive (or was cut down in its “childhood” by a careless mower.) The blueberry bushes are doing fairly well. Who knew it took ten years for a blueberry bush to mature?

When I ordered the Cottonwoods from Gurney’s, I selected “Cottonless Cottonwoods”. The same as other Cottonwoods, but bred to be sterile, and not produce the cotton. If you’ve ever known or encountered a mature Cottonwood, say, in June, you would be amazed and bedazzled and maybe overwhelmed in a literal sense by the bushels and bushels of tiny floating seeds, each wafting about on their own cotton pillow.

I remember going to the Utica Zoo on Kerry’s class trip, Kindergarten or First grade. The zoo was great, but everywhere we went there were foot-deep piles of cotton dander drifting along the walkways, settling into corners. It was a mess, but a magical mess. I knew I didn’t want this all over my yard (and in the house). So “Cottonless” was for me.

One of them did not get the memo. Of all the trees I planted, this one, now big and strong and tall, with graceful sweeping branches that reach nearly to the ground, goes into molting season with all of its little Cottonwood friends. And, it just so happens, it would be the Cottonwood that is perched twenty feet from the only place in the yard where we can put a pool (level ground and not too far from a power outlet for the filter).

So every year we have a pool, I spend eight weeks skimming Cottonwood catkins and dander from the top and bottom of the pool. It will clog the filter basket in a single day. The Cotton blows all over the yard, and when you mow, the cotton invariably flies at your face, goes up your nose, chokes the air intake of the John Deere.

Chuy & the Cottonwoods

A few years ago, the power company came along and said they were putting in lines for the neighbor. My Cottonwood, “Number One”, the first I planted, was in the right-of-way, and had to be removed. Killed. Chopped down. Felled. It wasn’t exactly like losing a pet or an heirloom, but there was a little twinge when I first saw that broad stump at the corner of the yard, that patch of blue sky where yesterday there were thousands of dancing green leaves. Not just a tree, but my tree.

We went to Newport, Rhode Island one year, visiting family between Plymouth and Providence. We toured the “Mansions of Newport”, former denizens of the last century’s American Royalty. They’d hop on their launches on the docks of Manhattan, and motor up the coast to the boathouse at Newport. Check these out on line, or go visit if you can. They are truly remarkable, real mansions to equal those in Europe. Imported marble, dozens of rooms, huge verandas, views of the sea.

At one such mansion, in the side yard, I spotted a familiar-looking tree. It was indeed a Cottonwood, probably near a hundred years old by then. Its branches draped outward and downward, as if it were resting so peacefully, and the tips of the branches reached all the way to the ground. So curious, this tree, like my own, would spend all those years growing, growing, taller and taller, ultimately to reach back down to the Earth from which it grew.

It was at that moment that I fell hard for the lowly Cottonwood tree.

When the summer breeze wafts down the lee side of Victory Mountain, and comes to call at the Crescent Moon Farm, our Holiday House, tens of thousands of leaves rustle a little golf clap for the beautiful weather. When storms roll through, the trees wave their arms, swing low their branches, as if to protect me. After Hurricane Irene, bits of Cottonwood tree were scattered throughout the yard.

Irene at Engleville- flooded road and neighbors.The felled Cottonwood #1 lies at the base of the new power pole.

Hurricane Irene-Bits of my Cottonwoods

On a quiet morning, as the sun throws its light over the barn, the trees are filled with birds. This morning I listened to an Oriole call out. The trunks are dotted with the neat, even rows of drill holes from the Northern Flickers.

Our Cottonwoods provide lovely shade in the yard where there once was none (save the front dooryard under the massive Maples).

Number two sports a wild-growing climbing rose, now reaching up through its host to a height of twenty feet or more. The main cane has a diameter of about four inches. As big around as a coffee mug. From number four hangs a tire swing, going on nearly twenty years, probably. It has swung my children, their friends and their children.

And that old number three, the one with all the catkins?

She’s still going. And this year, it looks like, and I hope, that slow-growing, graceful sweeping drooping branch will reach its goal. It’s only inches away now, and we are kindred, as we ready ourselves for the time we will reach down to our Mother Earth, and touch her once again.

And to be welcomed in a way only a Mother can.

Take care and keep in touch.

Paz

That Time of Year

Season's End

Season’s End

The words occurred to me, probably spilled aloud out of my mouth. “Well, it’s that time of year again.”. Such a feeling of comfort came over me. There is so much in the phrase and the sentiment. Sentiment, in fact would be one of the attributes, nostalgia. A security of rhythm, a consistency of clockworks, a natural and recurring pace.

The phrase is used throughout the year and yet at each point on the line takes on new variations on a theme. There’s something about coming around to the same place. Something about seeing things, simple things, in that “again” sense of annual events, reunions.

It’s That Time of Year” , again

Here at the Engleville Tick Ranch, the slow roll of the earth begins to be discerned. Sunrise later each morning, sunset earlier each evening. While grasses and pines, asters and chicory seem undeterred, deciduous plants are making their decisions. Time to shut down, shed their summer raiment, begin that long slow ride to the next solstice.

The slightest and subtlest things quickly catch our attention, quicken our pulses with the newness. Cool air on your face, heavy morning dews, the smell of the dried leaves. There’s a thrilling exhilaration to this time of season, a yin and yan to the coming days. Like a plunge into the lake for a swim, there is eagerness to be in the water and simultaneous excited apprehension about the shock of diving into the cold liquid world.

And so it’s that time of year. Time to put away the little enamel-top table in the cabana, having served us since sugaring season (Max’s Sugar Shack) in March. It’s seen silent summer mornings with me, a dog and a cup of coffee as we watch the lazy June sun climb up out of the sumacs. Afternoons babysitting, keeping an eye on naked toddlers as they play in and out of the kiddie pool. Evenings in July, as the skies darken and stars come out, looking for satellites, a meteor.

Time to wrap the little blueberry patch with its chicken wire winter fence. Defending against bunnies and deer who would eat the dormant shoots right to the ground when February rolls around, and food is scarce.

Time to open the Holiday Closet, an entire walk-in devoted to seasonal and holiday decorations. We’ll put away the wreaths adorned with summery flowers, bring out the wreaths with harvest colors and imitation fruits. Break out the ceramic pumpkin-shaped (and colored) serving platter, the tiny lighted ceramic houses showing tiny ceramic people digging out their own tiny ceramic decorations from their tiny Holiday Closet.

Time to spend a day cursing at the aluminum storm windows. Why won’t the top one stay all the way up? Time to jam screws into the gap between the sash and the window frames of the 110-year-old casement windows. Their round tops and rippled Albany glass having seen this time of year many more times than I have. Replace them all with vinyl? Are you crazy? Spend five minutes with one of these finely crafted, ornate antique constructions, and you’ll love drafts and blankets as much as we do.

Time to close the vent window in the basement. To wrap the young tulip tree and hope it survives to grow a third year. Time to chop down the 3-year-old Rose of Sharon that didn’t make it through last year’s harsh winter. Deep cold and no snow cover. A bad combination for so many things that have no where else to go, no means of protection against the deep freeze.

It’s that time of year to Ooh! and Aah! on the average of every thirty seconds while trying to drive somewhere, walk with the dog, mow the grass. To stop to take the photo even though it will make me late. To try desperately to capture the mood, the light, the temperature, the cool air, the smell of leaves and the wonder of it all in a photograph. To take pictures of the same tree donning the same autumn dress—going on thirty years or so.

After the first of October, we’ll get out all the Halloween decorations, the plastic jack-o-lanterns, the 7-foot-tall cartoonish Frankenstein who greets the school bus daily. The ceramic witch and black cat candy dishes. After the first of November we’ll haul out Thanksgiving. Paper turkeys with smiles on their faces. Paper pilgrims, paper natives, gathering for the feast. And then we roll on into the traditional American Christmas. That’s a story unto itself.

It’s the time of year for closing up, shuttering, wrapping, boxing, sealing and putting away. There’s no sense of loss here. It’s a bit like wrapping gifts for ourselves. Away goes the duffel full of camping gear. Won’t need that ’til summer. Away go the kiddie pool and the bicycles. Planters and pots are stacked in the back room. The barbecue parks in the cabana, holding forth the slightest hope that it may see some use on a spontaneous Sunday in January.

Like Christmas Clubs and piggy banks, 401k’s and Certificates of Deposit, we put these things away for our future selves. Until it’s time to revisit these familiar places, to open the gifts whose contents we know well. Soon we’ll open the winter gifts; bring out the down ticks for the beds, the draft stoppers for the doors, the electric heater for the bathroom.

And now? This weekend? Columbus Day? I’ll spend a weekend with good intentions to fix that insulation by the bulkhead door. I’ll ponder about when the last mowing will be. I’ll consider getting on the roof to make sure the drain is cleared. I’ll fret a little over how to take down the falling outhouse before the snow does it for me. In between I’ll walk the dog. Maybe take an extra spin around town in the morning, after the dump run, shoot a few photos.

But mostly, I’ll look up to a blue and gold October sky, listen to Canada Geese saying goodbye again, for the 57th year. I’ll marvel and stare at colored leaves that have marveled me and made me stare for as long as I can remember. I’ll breathe the cool, misty morning air, and smell the molds growing in the thatch, a dichotomy with the smell of dried leaves. I’ll be so distracted by the vibrant beauty and the newness of the season’s attributes that I’ll wonder on Tuesday where the time went. Make a plan to get all those chores done next weekend.

‘Cause, you know,

It’s that time of year again.

Take care and keep in touch,

 

Paz