This is a picture from yesterday morning. An hour earlier I woke to see light tracings of frost on the two bedroom windows we've left un-winterized until this first November weekend. It's something of a tradition for us to stick our heads in the sand in this particular way; to pretend at any moment we might have a day so warm and intoxicating we'll be glad we left the screens down in order to savor those last precious moments of seasonal experience. But this morning I woke from a dream about making glittery winter solstice ornaments. Not to mention knowing it's time to pull down those storm windows and also stop kidding myself that a t-shirt and thin cotton work pants are going to be sufficient for getting to the level of gardening clean-up that's still on my summer-soaked plate.
And so I went out to see how Our Mother may have helped me. I discovered she's not yet brought on the black killing frost. But every organic sensation within me can feel it moving ever-closer. There's a sharp blasting burr of clarity seeded into the typical chilly new england morning's air quality. It's something I deeply treasure about living here - along with the murmuring pre-slumber feeling tones swirling through all the garden spaces. And in truth that much was obvious to me just the way the birds were congregating on the feeding rocks and scavenging as a collectively fused group among the stones. I'd watched them briefly when I first got out of bed before re-focusing to morning yoga practice.
After that my focus sharpened exclusively on assembling warm enough clothes to feel comfortable rather than slightly shell shocked. Because I knew I had to be outside ASAP. Not just to scatter bird seed but because I was strongly drawn to be in the day. Since last Thursday we've had wind so powerful entire trees fell to block both the roads adjacent to our place. For a number of hours on Friday the road closest to the picture above was further closed so workers could remove a number of branches that had fallen to balance on the electrical lines. Primary limbs crashed to the ground a couple of times somewhere on the property. When it happened the cat and I looked at each other with a steady direct gaze. And I said what I say in these moments - have always said to whatever collection of cats and people have been startled-alive by that particular sound rather close at hand: We're in no danger. This particular cat has eyes so emotive it's almost disconcerting. They always seem to add the word. Yet.
The garden in this post's single image is called The Evolving Sanctuary. The picture lends an up to the minute view of a small and particular section of the property's original (and I bet it was show-stopping. so much wish I had a map or even just the scaper's sketch/species notes!) landscaping tour de force: an undulating band that stretches from the stone walls to the hemlocks that separate the frog pond from the field's gateway passage. On my watch - well. That's about a thousand different stories for as many different days. For today I'll say that on my watch I myself have been watched with tireless rigor. By innumerable tribes of birds and insects and small rodenty mammals and a steady handful that are not so small, such as bears and deer. By domestic cats and my neighbor's lonely goat and a different neighbor's equally different goat (who has, at least, an eldering cow - who watches or not at irregular intervals - for a herd) and raccoons and foxes and coyotes for sure. Things undetectable to a naked human eye have most definitely watched and I sometimes wonder how. I don't sense they have eyes so much as multi-sensory... sensors.
Most of all I've been watched by neighbors as they walk their dogs or their children or just themselves up and down the hill where we all live. And while driving by in cars. One neighbor slows his vehicle to an unashamed crawl even if we're right there looking at him while he does it. We always smile and wave. If we're in the house and see him doing it we'll sometimes stand and watch until he's rolled his car out of sight range. Why we ask each other. Then we generally laugh. But I do at times wonder why without laughing because this is how my head works: If it's so fascinating to watch human life successfully co-exist with birds weaving in and out out of largely ungroomed foundation plantings or leaves quite reliably decaying back into the soil on a yearly basis why not just do a bit of this in your own yard where you can see and actually participate in an up close and personal way?
What you see in the above image's foreground is a tiny area in which I've concentrated more than half my hands-on gardening energy and off-season planning over the past two growing cycle. It's a place I once wrote about in comments at Grace's concerning a glowing and supernaturally perfect frog I encountered back in the later spring. During the warmer weather this space was filled with butterflies and a hummingbird family of five from sunrise to sunset. All year round this specific spot also houses a colony of mixed sparrow species. Their ranks have been steadily growing since our third year in this place The flock doesn't yet visit the rocks because they'd prefer to graze the other readily available options up until the last possible second. Knowing this I planted several amaranths that flourished. From seed to careful pinching and grooming, through more diligent watering than usual and singing to the flower heads as they grew and turned to seed, my efforts were intended for the benefit of these tiny sweet singing birds.. And despite their increased number they're still feasting exclusively from their self-selected sanctuary space. Although they're down to the final leaning stalks in the foreground of this image as far as Amaranth is concerned.
While I took this picture the sparrows fluttered about in the dense thicket of fenced ornamental vines that are part of the original landscaping. You can't see it here because there's a wall of goldenrod stalks 5 to 7 layers deep blocking the view. By then the jays and titmice had already flocked to the rocks. All those leaves in my pictures from a few weeks ago are just where they fell; slowly drying and breaking into pieces.
The low-slanting much slower path of the rising sun during our cold eternity portion of the year is something I authentically enjoy embracing. It's the first consciously willing shift I tend to make each year - since childhood I've relished the special portal that opens when garden spaces fall closer to sleep. In the here and now I enjoy the way my morning inspection tours are sliding into a later autumn groove that's a very different type of sensory experience. Although my attitude and emotional response to the die-back have become softer and more appreciative as I age, it's still essentially a goodbye tour in search of small intimate details that can only set noticing-root after several yearly cycles together.
In the time since we moved here the land and I haven't just been getting used to each other. We've also been getting used to steadily obvious evidence of climate/earth change. Last year at this time the area "suddenly" started experiencing weather that was formerly typical for the region. Earlier today I wrote about that in my journal - how the local weather patterns ever since have been equally unusual in place of normalized fear madness and flying saucers. Seriously. Our now-considered normal weather patterns have been bonkers.
Through that lens it was a bit eerie to inhabit a landscape as indelibly familiar as the neighborhood of childhood. This sensation stayed true until we got close to summer's end and everything suddenly became its old self jacked-up to the eleventh power. And also coming at us in all sorts of scrambled out of order weather-like sequence. At this point I'm losing track of exactly how many weeks we've been having Nor-easters every few days without much calm in between. Dramatically intensified wind action on the daily has left an imprint of tempest on all the gardens. And yet yesterday's demeanor was calm enough to capture the sense of authentic sanctuary that's so gloriously evident in the above image.
The landscape herself is changing more dramatically now as the ground grows a bit colder each night. Her gait and demeanor shifts with the hourly spiraling of available light. All the warmth and turbo-charged energy necessary to sustain summer's elaborate panoply of abundance is heading far south. Whenever I think of it that way - not as summer leaving so much as simply continuing the necessary fulfillment of her seasonal purpose in another place - I feel my heart expand with joy instead of shrinking right along with the inexorable retreat of green. This shift has been revolutionary especially in relation to my ingrained thinking and emotional patterns of the season. Originally, before I was shut out of Typepad for most of a day and evening, I thought I would simply post the title and image. And allow that unadorned pairing to tell its own story to individual eyes and hearts. But then (retro merc always tends to work this way for me when it comes to slowly enlightening my presumed communicative intentions) there was the gift of enforced time in which to slow my roll all the way down vis a vis sharing only the image.
Off and on throughout my day I paused to consider what the picture said to my eyes and heart instead of showing me things I've already seen/felt of the land, automatically, throughout these precious years of coming to know it a little. This allows me to deepen my connections to awareness itself, not just what I do with it; to consistently ask more from and for myself than what's already "a given" and thus easiest to articulate through the power of word as well as the power of image. All those hours of sporadic contemplation pushed me to evoke a couple more details concerning what it's like to live here; to walk around in this place where I really hadn't the slightest clue what it meant to arrive and announce myself, with great confidence, as a willing and able participant in -- I knew not what, really.
Still don't. Probably never will no matter how clearly I may perceive windows of time and experience along the way as an endless magic corridor of clarifying revelations. Eldering has brought me in deep to the presumed autumn of my own life. At a personal level I'm finding this to be the most (em)powerful season so far. Yet this is also the very first literal autumn season in time when I've perceived the year's ebb and flow through such a radically shifted prism. As a creative I always find it very exciting to be at least a little scared and ever so slightly out of balance. Up to a certain point I find I'm able to thrive within not knowing quite where I stand beyond sensing potent ambiguity - about my intentional direction shift and blank space in the mind and heart rather than going forward in time with a strongly established notion of knowing exactly what I'm trying to convey.
The very best moments of my life's trajectory have occurred when I consciously put down one of humanity's favorite go-to prisms - the one labeled How It's Always Been. For us as a group or for myself at a largely internalized and strictly personal level. And focusing on that specific aspect of telling Story so it remains true to itself rather than wrapping itself in whatever personal aesthetics feel most flattering or comfortable. For me it feels increasingly important to include that not-knowing arc of experience within our stories of Shift in this time of routine quantum leaps. My sense is that, in allowing ourselves to write and read such inclusions, we collectively weave into place a personalized grace note to the story of Timelessness. In that specific frame I offer you the pairing of these words with a particular image evoking a visual eloquence only Gaia can bring.