Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Jump starting Autumn's first full day

I can only surmise that when James Russell Lowell wrote
And what is so rare as a day in June?
Then, if ever, come perfect days;
he had never spent a September day like today in Minnesota. Even the local white pines are getting into the act, turning their clusters of five needles yellow before letting them drop. I bet neither had he spent a late, late night, bordering on early morning, watching the big dipper and listening to several packs of coyotes responding to each other, or to the low-key whoo-whooo of the owl in the nearby woodlot, a call that may have instigated all the coyote commotion.

White pine needles turning color
Photo by J. Harrington

I was out in the pitch dark wrestling with a tripod on a crowned gravel road, trying, unsuccessfully, to take some photos of the stars, when the Better Half took Franco for a walk in the dark. It's still not clear whether Franco or I startled each other more. I'm not sure what he though I was, but for a moment I was concerned that the rumbling sounds I heard were coming from the neighborhood black bear. No serious damage seems to have been done to any of the parties involved, but it could have qualified as a cardiac stress test for both dog and man.

Maroon, copper (?) and yellow chrysanthemums
Photo by J. Harrington

This year's assortment of chrysanthemums will remain unplanted until after the wedding. Some or all of them will be used to decorated the locale of the ceremony then they'll go into the ground in the unrealistic hope that they may survive the winter and return to life come Spring. Meanwhile, we have to pay careful attention to the leaf color and the color of the seeds to confirm our suspicion that the maple trees on the property are red maple and not sugar maple. Red maple will also produce sap for making syrup, but I've read that it takes half as much sugar maple sap as red maple to make an equivalent amount of syrup. It might be fun to play with anyway, come next Spring. It would be for, as they say, personal consumption. Speaking of next Spring, I was both saddened and gladdened to learn that a class I had wanted to take, that conflicted with a certain wedding, has been canceled but a variant may be offered next Spring or Summer. A good reason to strive to survive another Winter in My Minnesota, but not until after we all finish enjoying the rest of this freshly started Autumn and remember to leave some land wild.

Developing the Land

By Stephen Behrendt 

For six nights now the cries have sounded in the pasture:
coyote voices fluting across the greening rise to the east
where the deer have almost ceased to pass
now that the developers have carved up yet another section,
filled another space with spars and studs, concrete, runoff.

Five years ago you saw two spotted fawns rise
for the first time from brome where brick mailboxes will stand;
only three years past came great horned owls
who raised two squeaking, downy owlets
that perished in the traffic, skimming too low across the road
behind some swift, more fortunate cottontail.

It was on an August afternoon that you drove in,
curling down our long gravel drive past pasture and creek,
that you saw, flickering at the edge of your sight,
three mounted Indians, motionless in the paused breeze,
who vanished when you turned your head.

We have felt the presence on this land of others,
of some who paused here, some who passed, who have left
in the thick clay shards and splinters of themselves that we dig up,
turn up with spade and tine when we garden or bury our animals;
their voices whisper on moonless nights in the back pasture hollow
where the horses snort and nicker, wary with alarm.


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