Curtain Rising

Sitting in the black porch rocker, taking an afternoon break from thinking, planning, doing, I watch yellow birch leaves continue their spiraling dance. A light wind from the East stirs the trees, portending rain and cooler days. Anticipation bubbles within me, like the moments just before the curtain opens on a grand performance, only this is more like a strip tease. Acorns are hitting the ground with popping applause.  After a number of encores, the trees will be bare, revealing a new landscape. I am a newcomer to this stage, first time in this front row seat. The final curtain call will reveal a new horizon.

This well staged drama is a reminder that all life tells the story of change. Carrie Newcomer sings:

Leaves don’t drop they just let go,
And make a place for seeds to grow
Every season brings a change,
A seed is what a tree contains,
To die and live is life’s refrain

Weeks ago when the colors of summer began to fade I was holding onto the scene with a tight grip. “Not yet. Not yet. I am not ready.” All the while I knew change was inevitable. Now I rise to a blessed coolness that takes the edge off the lingering heat, well past the fall equinox. The bite of a honey crisp apple, straight from the tree to me, awakens a taste for Fall. Though I am not fully ready to let go of the peach-sweetness of summer, I begin to imagine the biting tastes of red pepper and cumin in a spicy bowl of chili. The baskets of mums are beckoning and I am once again forced to decide – yellow, gold, purple, or burnt-orange?

I have lived 70 years in a temperate zone and never grown tired of the dramatic production of changing seasons. Nature nurtures an attitude that reminds me to embrace transition – something ever new and eternally the same will be woven together. The curtain will open on a vision that catches the moment between now and then. What has remained hidden from sight can be seen for a time. I am looking forward to the exploring another view. It won’t be the quite same the next time around, and neither will I.

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The Sky is Falling

I am discovering that the wisdom of aging comes with a slowing down, prompting me to sink into the moment at hand. That’s how I began to befriend the sky, conceiving of its presence as an immense blue canvas on which forces of nature paint an accounting of the day just as it is happening. The artist’s pallet holds the elements of light, wind, water, and temperature and produces not simply a representation of life as it is occurring, but the very reality that gives shape to my day, sometimes my very mood. From dawn to evening, night fall to daylight rising, the sky is my protective shell. I count on it being there – and it is – even if I don’t give this a single moment’s thought.

Gazing up at the curved canvas I am reminded of the constancy of change in life, the subtle ways my day, my world is being reshaped. Approaching fall in the mountains, it is difficult not to notice the dense fog that hangs over the early morning. I begin to anticipate, like clockwork, the warmth that will lift the cloud, unveiling the stretched blue fabric of my day. Today the clouds spread like a bed sheet, hanging low and teasing me with its dense gray appearance. Stratus could up to pranks. Will it rain on the roofers and then their work day will stop?

I favor the fairy streaks of high cirrus clouds that produce a light airy step in the day, but it only takes a turn of the head and sky is filled with white puffy cotton candy, the cumulus clouds that appear like mounds of whipped cream. I can quickly fall into my childhood memories, lying on the sand at the beach, naming the clouds by the images they depict.

One of my favorite Charlie Brown cartoons depicts Charlie Brown, Linus, and Lucy lying on the top of a hill. Lucy says “If you use your imagination you can see lots of things in the cloud formations. What do you see, Linus?” “Well those clouds up there look to me like the map of British Honduras…that cloud up there looks a little like the profile of Thomas Eakins, the famous painter and sculptor…over there …the impression of the stoning of Stephen…the apostle Paul standing there to one side.” Lucy replies, “That’s very good…what do you see in the clouds, Charlie Brown?” “Well, I was going to say I saw a ducky and a horsie, but I changed my mind?”

It is all a matter or perspective, isn’t it? Now I see great tears in the blanket that has hung overhead all morning; the brilliant blue canvas reappearing. My life is not separate from nature’s painting of the day; I am encouraged by the change that constantly takes place; I am delighted with the beauty, grateful for the warnings; overwhelmed with the thought that this protective embrace has been present for all generations of peoples. My ancestors stood under this sky. Now that’s a story I could tell.

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Labor Day River Musings

On Labor Day I found myself totally taken in by an afternoon river hike, despite the fact that a Google quest led us on a misguided wild goose chase around Lonesome Mountain – the name says it all – twenty plus extra minutes of hair pin turns. Even as we made the ill-judged left turn, I was eyeing a sign that read “Boat Landing” – with an arrow to the right. “Isn’t the river that way,” I asked aloud. Imagine the startled realization that if I pulled out of our driveway, turned left and maintained a straight, well periodically curvy, path, no turns, I would arrive at my goal in 25 minutes.  I admonish myself never to start out on an excursion without verifying directions with an honest-to-goodness paper-in-hand map. Where was that AAA triptik when I needed it? However, as soon as we arrived at the trailhead – another 10 minutes U turn experience – everything about the journey melted away. The destination was indeed inescapable beauty!

River Watcher

Great Blue Heron, long-legged wader,
S-curved neck, straightening into
Yoga pose, poised, paused,
caught in the act of perfecting
the Now, watching the waters stir,
waiting for sight of passing prey,
laboring in reflective stillness
Give me O Lord the patience
of an heron attending only
to the task at hand.

Sensing Beauty

Roots and rocks press deep
into passing feet. Late summer
breeze brushes my body’s
beaded sweat. Scent of campfires,
smoke rising, sodden earth at river’s
edge. Sound of laughing waters
calling children to play merges with
onlookers’ murmurs of delight.
Splashes of yellow goldenrod, red
jewelweed, and purple Joe-pyes paint
Laurel River’s landscape. No labor
today, only inescapable beauty.

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