Our family’s summer cottage is like a cabin, meaning it has no attic. Hence rain on its roofs sounds like the rat-a-tat-tat of artillery.
I love that. I love everything about this place and I can’t stay away from it. I watch the lake that it’s on going as white with ice in December as the cataracts on an old dog’s eyes. I see it glassy-flat and drowsing in a summer heat wave; see it peaked up into cowlicks in autumn wind storms.
Going there this past week I saw the results of just such a storm. The acorns were scattered so thick on the pathway we were practically roller-skating to get to the door.
These acorns get my attention every year.
If rain sounds like artillery when it hits the roof, the acorns sound like bombs. “Pow!” they go when they hit. “Blam! Dobble dobble dobble dobble, as they hit and then roll on off.
It never occurred to me they might be trying to tell me something until the day one hit me square on the noggin. It hurt like crazy, and “Wake up!” it seemed to be saying. “Yeah, you. Start looking around some!”
So lately I have been doing that. And this is what I have seen:
- A girl baby not yet two enjoying an especially warm autumn day. She wore tiny braids and, for the moment, no top at all, which suited her fine. As her momma chatted with her girlfriends, she jumped and hopped and talked to herself, escaping all their attention ‘til she had decided to remove her pants too and frisk about in her diapers.
- A baby even younger, enduring his parents’ endless efforts to take his picture as they squinted into the camera and cooed like excited pigeons to get him to get the smile. This he endured as long as he could, then pressed the apple he was eating to his own squinted-up eye and in perfect parody “shot” them right back.
- A squirrel rushing by with a chestnut in its mouth so big his cheeks almost split. I was guessing he wished he had been equipped as the boa constrictor is with a jaw that unhinges itself and opens even wider to accommodate those really big meals.
- A gathering of hawks, each one by turns diving and wheeling as the others watched. “Beat this!” each seemed to be saying, as if in competition, though maybe not if the documentary “Winged Migration” has it right. Competitiveness is the last thing you think of as you watch these birds in flight, filmed from a noiseless glider rowing through the air right up there with them. Instead you’re busy thinking about the simple quilting vegetation on the land’s soft body, the lovely lack of borders or boundaries seen from up where birds fly.
One day soon I’ll wake to find that the water on our old birdbath has wrinkled and turned to ice.
How to feel about that event is the question, and again I look to the birds, this time the dozens I saw swooping over a wide stretch of median on the interstate.
Their wings darkened and then lightened again in the low-angled sun, like those magical billboards that broadcast one message, then shudder and shift and broadcast another.
Two messages then. Two choices maybe: dance in your diapers while the day is still warm or rush out and gather more acorns.
I know which one I’d pick.