Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Letting Go…

Though the calendar indicates a few more days of summer, here in this rural northern clime, the long slow pageant of Autumn has begun. Rich, vibrant color is creeping into the palette of greens the trees have worn all summer. Mums are for sale at all of the farm markets. Soon the leaves will begin to fall from the trees and leagues of tidy, diligent, homeowners will pull out their rakes. There is something picturesque about piles of fallen leaves in neighborhood backyards.

In the small pretty village near our home, residents sweep their leaves, bag them, and leave them on the curb for several a special pick-up. The department of public works will tend to the task of turning the leaves to mulch and compost for community gardens. Out here in the country there are other possibilities. Some folks still rake and burn their leaves, scenting the air with nostalgia. Others, rake and compost their own leaves, and conscientiously top-dress their gardens.

We have very few trees on our own little plot of countryside, since our property was a cow pasture before we took up residence. The few trees we have drop their leaves, serenely unbothered by what will happen next. The pear trees in the Orchard Garden drop leaves of a delicious shade of apricot that puts the greenish-brown fruit of late summer to shame. Our maples blaze in fire-kissed shades of red, orange and yellow. This year our new Thundercloud Plum will drop leaves of crimson and purple on the flower bed and across the front porch. Like the trees, we are serenely unbothered by what will happen next. We let the wind sweep the leaves away. Time and sunshine, as well as autumn rains and winter snows, will ensure that the leaves eventually enrich the Earth.

We are all so worried about eliminating clutter in our homes these days. There are countless articles and television segments on the subject. For some of us, no matter how hard we try to combat the situation, more clutter appears and seems to grow on tabletops or in the corners of our rooms. I wonder if our struggle with physical clutter is an outward manifestation of an inward battle with the clutter in our psyches? Who wouldn’t rather rake, bag up, and send away their most difficult memories? Wouldn’t things be more beautiful within our minds, more peaceful and uncomplicated, without the issues and frustrations of the past?

I try not to spend too much time worrying about my own psychological clutter. I watch the circle of the seasons, try to stay connected with the cycles of nature, and realize that if a little fallen leaf debris will enrich the Earth, a little hardship must certainly enrich my soul. I can’t even pretend to be “serenely unbothered” by the trials and tribulations of my life, but each year as I watch the trees release their leaves with perfect grace, I get a little bit closer to letting go.
photo by Haiku, 2006

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Beach Glass and Other Miracles...

I may never see an angel, but I have felt the rush of wings as a blue heron lifted off our pond. I may never see all the far away places I have dreamed of, but I have seen a lone red fox run along our creek bank under a brilliant moon. I have heard coyotes raise their voices as twilight fell. The world’s great riches may pass me by, but a wealth of tiny blessings touches me every day.

The most valuable thing I have ever found while wandering along the local shoreline was a bit of amber beach glass, worn smooth by the churning of the water. I found another piece; an incredible shade of aqua. The miracle is not that beach glass exists - that is easily explained - the miracle is that we care. Both of those bits of time-tumbled glass ended up in my pocket, and later in a purple-stemmed cordial glass in my china cabinet. Why do we pick up broken bits of glass and save them? Why do we hold on to an interesting stone with unusual coloration? Why do we take home a handful of tiny seashells, when there are a million others just like them still lying on the beach?

For me, these “saved bits” are just tactile reminders of the greatest wonder of nature: the mystery of it all. The mystery, energy and majesty of the universe are present in the gust of wind from the heron's wings as it lifts into flight, and in the stealth of the fox as it moves along the creek bank, and in the wild, sweet sound of the coyote’s cry. I cannot hold those things in my hand, so I save a little touchstone, or talisman, to remind me of the wonders I have been fortunate to encounter.

I haven’t been as adventurous as I once thought I would be. The things I’ve achieved in life are not the grand things I once imagined I would achieve. I live in a small house on a windy hill, not on the world stage at the pinnacle of success. But, how can I complain that life is ordinary, when I can walk in the rain and be drenched with nature’s blessings, immersed soul-deep in the mystery of it all?
photo by Aisling, Summer 2006

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

The Quiet Country House...

Ok, so it isn’t always perfectly quiet here. More often than I care to admit, the television is too loud. Sometimes the people who live here are too loud. Sometimes a dirt bike roars down the lane, throwing up clouds of dust. Definitely, too loud! But for the most part, life is quiet here.

Our little house sits in the rolling hills, amid orchards, farms and fields. The wind is always blowing, picking up speed as it crosses the lake and rushes to greet us. Because of that wind, the few trees we’ve planted in the eleven years we’ve lived here have a definite slant to the east. Also, because of that wind, my showiest garden sits down behind the house along the creek bank, buffered from the wind. So what if no-one sees my best gardening efforts, except for my family and I? The butterflies still find it, as do the dragonflies, hummingbirds, Pandorus Sphinx Moths, and other winged beauties.

The joke has always been made that, in the country, we find our entertainment in “watching the grass grow.“ As for me, I’m partial to observing the wild dance of the wind. I enjoy watching as the wind scoots the clouds through ever-changing skyscapes. The sound of the highway over a mile away is a distant hum of intermittent sound, but just outside my front door, the wind sings a song in praise of quiet country places. The more I hear it, the more I want to sing along.
photo by Aisling, Summer 2006