Where is My Bathing Suit NOW?

the living roomWaking this morning and entering the living room I beheld a kind of light that seemed almost valedictory, almost literally tinged with shades of farewell.  

I can’t explain it but it feels as if the sunlight in September is coming now from a different star; as if the sun we knew all summer called on some quieter, less flashy sibling and said, “You take over. I’m beat.”

Just ten days ago it was all might and haze. A week ago Saturday, September the 6th marked the hottest day we had all summer when even the dogs were looking around for that can of antiperspirant. You walked outside and the sun accosted you instantly. It came and sat on your head and pressed down.

I hear in Colorado this week’s temps went from the 80s to the 30s in a 24-hour period. That didn’t happen where I live north of Boston but something like it has occurred. Tucking in to bed last night by a lake in New Hampshire, the weather alert on my phone told of a frost advisory.

Our sandals will soon be behind us. Flip-flops probably already are, along with sleeveless tank tops and the sarong-style skirts such as women might wrap quick around their bathing suits before running out to buy the groceries.

Bathing suits already seem a faraway concept to me now, and anyway the elastic on the leg of that nice purple one of mine is all shot.

No matter now. I’m not going near any pools. I have a zillion other plans now, all spelled Back At It.

Here is a picture of one of the only creatures you’ll see in most pools now: the cheerful ducks, who are gathering daily and muttering by the shores of city ponds.

They have a plan too and that plan is spelled Going South.

ducks in the pool

The rest of us will stay here and see what God sends. Here are some lines addressed to Him by the composer Francis Wylie in one of my most favorite hymns: 

Thou from Whose unfathomed law the year in beauty flows,
Thyself the vision passing by in crystal and in rose,
Day unto day doth utter speech, and night to night proclaim,
In ever changing words of light, the wonder of Thy Name.

Amen to that sentiment! Now let’s go seize this matchless day!


The Leaves Rain Down

by a pond in autumnAround here in fall, the leaves go slowly. Here is how things looked yesterday at the pond I like to walk around.

But in my own yard there is one tree that loses leaves all at once.

You wake to the sound of a gentle patter.

Then you look up and the light is all dappled as they rain down so quickly, and land with a dry little splash on the quickly accumulating leaves below.

I wait every year to witness this amazing event, when, within the space of three hours, every single leaf on the tree in front of our house falls to the ground,

And I am so glad I was home to watch it today.

You watch it too and be amazed by this world we are blessed to inhabit. I am just made dizzy by it every fall. 

Today I’m Keeping my Focus Close

I’m keeping my focus in close today I think – not much past my own front yard in fact.

I need the rest.

So this is what I see these days, on the frosty autumn mornings.

I see the milky morning light as it plays on the landscape. We live on the corner so we get a good a good look around at things.

I note that the ivy is growing on our house again. How hard it was to see it all stripped off last year so the painters could paint! It’s coming back now, if slowly. It’s about up to my head where it climbs the chimney with those tenacious tendrilled fingers.

I see that the birds are vying for the last berries on the hawthorn tree…..

I see all this.

And I see these stalks of oat grass if that is even oat grass, bought at Whole Foods the people who would sell you back the dirt under your shoes if they could figure out how to get it away from you long enough for to mark it up in true Whole Paycheck style.

Still, it’s pretty, the oat grass.

I see my pumpkin, nibbled even more that it was last week by this little guy and his pals, all seeking to plump up before the real cold comes.

And speaking of the real cold, something special happened yesterday morning: The ginkgo tree lost all its leaves within an hour’s time, as is its custom.

Here is what it looks like. I just love seeing – and hearing – this happen every year. What is the ginkgo’s lesson for us do you think.

Goodbye to All That

This is how things looked at the lake we visit. I took this picture last weekend. Just last weekend!

The warm morning light on the railings, the topaz hue of the leaves…

Then at afternoon’s end, there was this view from the end of a dock:

How does the heart not break when one looks at such beauty? Especially now that Sandy  has come like an avenging angel sweeping all before her.

God’s own leaf blower is a hurricane.

We wake to a wider sky today.

More light, with the foliage gone.

More light, in the day’s early portion at least, with the thudding new arrival of Daylight Savings in the wee hours of this morning.

I woke at 3:45 and never slept again. Don’t know why.

I wandered the house watering a few thirsty plants, then brought coffee back into my bed and read my book.

The plants can’t say they’re crazy about being brought inside now that I’ve closed up the screened-in porch.

Being next to a radiator is especially hard for them.

But it’s adapt or falter in this world. Out in the porch this peace lily would be frozen brown stalk in less than a month .

And so it is with us. Adapt or falter.

Get out of bed now. Sweep the leaves from your stoop.  Do your errands early so you can feel cozy when the night once again lowers.

And think of all who, a week after the storm, still have no light or heat.

Love This Month

January is the month of the plain days, when we return to our right minds, the way that old Prodigal Son did, waking among the pigs. I’m guessing that happened in January too.

It’s the month when we breathe free again, for behind us is December’s delirium; behind us the scorekeeping, the anguished thoughts about just exactly who we exchanged with last year and should we buy them all gifts again this year?

Now it’s Plain January and January’s no month for keeping score.

January’s the month for letting go and letting it happen.

Cold happens in January. Sometimes it happens in such a big way you can’t wear jewelry without causing the flesh it touches to freeze in sympathy.  Last weekend my ears looked like two little dried apricots just pulled from the freezer, even without the steel posts of earrings skewering their lobes.

Snow also happens, as the folks in Cordova, Alaska can testify with their house-high amounts.

But snow too we just have to have to let wash over us.

In fact that’s all we need do in January: endure the weather and try to get to the Superbowl without giving ourselves coronaries.

I love the month for its blankness. It’s like the yearly planner before we fill it with all our appointments. I love it for its rhythms, the 31 days all alike with one welcome holiday weekend smack in the middle. I like the way we can set our alarms for 6:00 or even 5:00 and then just lie there a while in the pre-dawn hush. Because even a full month after the shortest day, it’s still not light until 7:00 and there’s something cozy in that early morning darkness.

Sometimes I rise from my bed at 5:00 and see old Orion, armed to teeth, and leaning in my window. “Go back to bed, fool,” he seems to be saying. “Can’t you see it’s night still?”

I follow his orders and dream just one more dream.

So though the days are short still, there is something nice in that fact. It lets us not be fibbing when we tell our pillows, “Be back real soon!” And in another four weeks, a muscular young sun will be pulling our covers right off us, impatient as a puppy eager for breakfast.

That’s true, hard as it may be to believe on this 22nd day of January, when just halfway through the Patriots-Ravens face-off, our little patch of earth will be plunged once again in darkness. But think on this; just think on this: Right now, the Almanac says the sun came up at 7:15 A.M.  A month from now it will be up by just after 6:30. And by the 21st of March? By then, we’ll be two whole weeks into Daylight Savings, with sunset not due until 7:30 P.M.

In sum, I love this month for its message that all we need do is snooze and wait, just as the seeds are doing in their deep earthy beds. Then one day, when we’re busy with other things, we’ll turn and spot that one frail crocus blossom and see that Life really is as ever-regenerating as the poets have always told us.

just look at that blue sky and tell me it’s not thinking ‘robin’s eggs!’


If there’s one weekend in the year when you can exhale it’s got to be this one with summer about to begin, yet the days still getting longer. There’s an amnesty feeling almost, as if Time has forgotten its chief task of hurrying us all along toward the exits.

Even here on the internet things are quieter than a closed library. Winter weekend, rainy weekends it’s practically standing room only online, but today? With temperatures heading for the mid-80s it’ll be a ghost-town here, not counting the faint peeping sound Tweets and status updates coming in through people’s phones.

I couldn’t sleep last night. At 3:00 I was wandering from room to room, reluctant to take a sleep aid because I knew the birds would be up talking within the hour. They do that in my part of the time zone: they get up before 4:00. With their happy racket and full daylight by 5:00 I wouldn’t want to be drugged-out and unable to wake when the day began.

I work every single day to bring this little gift to you though there’s no money in it. And, like millions of others , I buy food and cook it, I work a job and I spend time with our small people, I take our remaining old person out to break the terrible loneliness of the old. I can never sleep late is what I am saying; I feel all that waiting for me and I hate to admit that I’m often anxious.

So at 3am today I was dragging my anxiousness with me into the living room, the hallway, the kitchen. There I suddenly heard the solemn tones of the wind chimes I had just hung outside the porch door the day before. They are made of iron and extend five feet down from tip to end and now a stiff steady breeze had called forth their deep belling sounds.

I listened and listened, standing in the kitchen. Finally I returned to the bedroom and opened the windows wider to hear them still . And didn’t they carry me into three hours of deep refreshing sleep, as they will perhaps do every night now until that far-distant day when the cold returns and the snow begins again to fall.

~These are not my chimes but they are like mine and will give you the idea. Send not to know for whom the bell tolls. It tolls for thee.~

Goodbye for Now

At 7:00 this morning the leaves on our ginkgo tree started to fall. This tree came with this house we bought in my 30th year and that first spring we lived here a strolling elder passed our yard and stopped. “You know you have one of the only two ginkgoes in this town,” he said in grave tones. “”Really?” we said, knowing little then of the power of trees. “Yes,” he said sternly. “The ginkgo is one of the Nature’s first trees, a real primitive. Look how its leave grows right from its large branches; there are no little branches!”

We started noticing then, all right. That was  in April and six months late we saw what you will see below.

This morning I was slow to wake and was just passing the upstairs room I call my office when a flickering caught my eye. The tree was releasing its leaves – so fast that in an hour the tree would be bare. I threw on my robe and hurried outside so you could see it too. You’ll hear the work of the world in the background – a truck backing up? – but mostly you will hear the tree. Press ‘Play’ now and think for a minute how quickly change comes to all us mortal things.