Begin the Day Slow







O hushed October morning mild,
Thy leaves have ripened to the fall;
Tomorrow’s wind, if it be wild,
Should waste them all.
The crows above the forest call;
Tomorrow they may form and go.
O hushed October morning mild,
Begin the hours of this day slow.
Make the day seem to us less brief.
Hearts not averse to being beguiled,
Beguile us in the way you know.
Release one leaf at break of day;
At noon release another leaf;
One from our trees, one far away.
Retard the sun with gentle mist;
Enchant the land with amethyst.
~Robert Frost, from “October” in A Boy’s Will






These mornings I wander stunned by light and mist
to see trees tremble inside their loosening cloaks,
a pulsing palette of color ready to detach,
revealing mere bones and branches.

I want to slow it down,
leave the leaves attached like a fitted mosaic
rather than randomly falling away.

Their release is not their choosing:
the trees know it is time for slowly letting go~
readying for sleep, for sprouts and buds, for fresh tapestry to be woven
from October’s leaves lying about their feet.










The Cold Days to Come




photo by Nate Gibson
All afternoon his tractor pulls a flat wagon
with bales to the barn, then back to the waiting
chopped field. It trails a feather of smoke.
Down the block we bend with the season:
shoes to polish for a big game,
storm windows to batten or patch.
And how like a field is the whole sky now
that the maples have shed their leaves, too.
It makes us believers—stationed in groups,
leaning on rakes, looking into space. We rub blisters
over billows of leaf smoke. Or stand alone,
bagging gold for the cold days to come.


There is a desperation to these October days:
the leaves torn from branches by unrelenting gusts
with no thought to where they may land~
upon which patch of grass or gravel will be their final resting place
to wilt and wither in the rain,
under frost,
buried by eventual peaceful snowbanks
until they return to dust.

Or in my need to hold on to what I can
of what was,
I preserve a few like precious treasure,
tucked between book pages
to remain forever neighbors
with the words they embrace.




The Drift of Melancholy




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”






Seeing Past Ordinary



An open heart is alive to wonder, to the sheer marvel of “isness.”
It is remarkable that the world is,
that we are here,
that we can experience it.
The world is not ordinary.
Indeed, what is remarkable is that
it could ever look ordinary to us.
An open heart knows “radical amazement.”
An open heart and gratitude go together.
We can feel this in our bodies.
In the moments in my life
when I have been most grateful,
I have felt a swelling,
almost a bursting in my chest.

~Marcus Borg from The Heart of Christianity




Poplar Torches

“October’s poplars are flaming torches
lighting the way to winter.”
~ Nova Bair

“I remember it as October days are always remembered, cloudless, maple-flavored, the air gold and so clean it quivers.”
Leif Enger in Peace Like a River

Reblogged from September 2010:

Our eighty-plus year old row of Lombardy Poplars (Populus Nigra –Latin for “people of the dark”) on the west edge of our farm seems to be following me.  The trees themselves, supposedly nearing the end of a typical poplar life span, are grand massively tall specimens, their leaves and branches noisily reacting to the tiniest of breezes.  In greater winds, they bend and sway wildly, almost elastic.  The trees themselves move not an inch in their hot pursuit of me, but beneath the ground is a remarkable stealth root system that is creeping outward, trying to edge closer to the house.

This is what strikes fear in my heart if I don’t resist: I’d have poplars springing alien-like through the floorboards in my kitchen if I didn’t pay attention.

If we leave those roots undisturbed for only a few months, they swell to arm size, lying just below the surface of the ground, busily sprouting numerous new little Populus Nigra along the length of the root.   These are no cute babyish innocent little seedlings.  These are seriously hungry plants determined to be fed from the roots as if from a fire hose.  They literally put on inches over a week;  they are over 6 feet tall in a month or two.   Suddenly I’m faced with dozens of new poplar babies, each sucking on a communal maternal umbilical cord.

We have no choice but to seek and destroy on a regular basis.  It is a shock and awe operation.  I’m shocked at the growth and awed at the strength of the adversary.   Many of these simply cannot be pulled up from the dust by hand as the process results in a root crawling many yards long, heading east toward the house like a heat-seeking missile.  To finish off the job, sometimes the root must be removed entirely by tractor.

I do have to admire this tree for its fortitude as well as its beauty.  As a wind break, it is unparalleled, its branches and leaves melodious in the breeze.   Autumn sets it aflame, a golden torch, soon to messily scatter its foliage and dying branches as far as arboreally possible.   And it makes for great artwork by the likes of Monet and Van Gogh, creating predictability, uniformity and symmetry in their paintings as well as the palette of our farmscape.

The poplars may be pursuing me but I enjoy the chase.  I gaze with appreciation at our row of poplars’ dark outline against the horizon during orange sunsets.  I miss their hubbub of constant activity when their leaves drop for winter.  Stripped naked, they stand silently waiting for the rush of spring warmth and moisture to start creeping forward again,  ballooning seedlings with a rush of sap, fearlessly growing clones against all odds.

My husband suggested it was time to take the poplars down before they snap off in their old age, overcome in the strong northeasters.  I disagree.  Chopping them off at the base and pulling them out by their roots would be cruel and unsporting of us.  They deserve to struggle against our fight to the finish to prevent their infiltration beyond a defined border row.

I’ve accepted that those shallow roots will likely outlast my efforts to stem the poplar tide.  Eventually I’ll be pulled face first into the dust by their undertow and there I will remain.

As I see it, if you can’t beat them, join them.

It Would Be Cheaper

“Nature is, above all, profligate.  Don’t believe them when they tell you how economical and thrifty nature is, whose leaves return to the soil.  Wouldn’t it be cheaper to leave them on the tree in the first place?
~Annie Dillard

It is a good thing I wasn’t assigned the role of Designer because all would have gone awry in my dedication to resource management, efficiency and creating less waste.    There would be imposed limitations on earth, wind and rain storms.  No wildfires or natural disasters like earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes and tornadoes.  To avoid having to blow around, rake, pick up and compost those fallen autumn leaves, all trees would be evergreens, needles long-lasting for decades.  There would be fewer insect species, in particular wasps, fleas, chiggers, bed bugs, mosquitoes and flies.   Fewer rodents, viruses, toxic bacteria and pesky parasites.  The list is endless: things would be different in my Thrifty Design Of All Things Natural.

But of course the balance of living and dying things would then be disturbed and off kilter.

Rather than worry about the wastefulness,  I should revel in the abundance as I watch death recreate itself to life again.  Nature has built-in redundancy, teems with remarkable inefficiency and overwhelms with extravagance.  As just another collection of cells with similar profligacy, I can’t say much and better not complain.  Thank goodness for the redundancy and extravagance found in my own body, from the over supply of nasal mucus during my upper respiratory infection helping me shed viral particles, to the pairing of many organs and parts allowing me a usable spare in case of system failure.

Sometimes cheaper costs more.  Sometimes extravagance is intentional and rational.

Clearly things are meant to be as they are.

If I am ever in doubt, I can simply look out at the leaf-carpeted front yard…or in the mirror.

Then I will remember and know.

“So let us go on, cheerfully enough, this and every crisping day,
though the sun be swinging east, and the ponds be cold and black,
and the sweets of the year be doomed.” 
~Mary Oliver from Lines Written in the Days of Growing Darkness