Sunday, October 30, 2011

One of My Poems

I normally prefer to post poems by other writers, but here's one of mine (which will, ahem, be in the forthcoming book Afterimage next spring). Also, lots of really cool autumn leaf pictures coming soon I've been working on for weeks--stay tuned. But for now I'm swamped, so, to the poem.

Last Rites                                                                   

Believe me when I say that lavender cries.
This is why in autumn mornings butterflies
move silently across the stalks, buoyant
like bells that slide over altar candles.
That exhalation, after scent has ambled
toward the heavens, removes life’s memory, fervent
intensity of freedom from the stem—
it makes the world a stunted requiem.
And insects burning with the forests—wings
a folded canopy of maple red,
yellow ash, umber oak—these inclined
transmuted shadows slip into this wonting.
Even we, within our lightly tended beds,
will fade into another, intertwined.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

One More Spin

70s the next two days (not the era, the temp), then 50 and freezes by the end of the week. I've set out all my cut flowers for the insects since a lot succumbed to the 22 degrees we had last week. I'm trying to fully immerse myself in autumn, in the garden, not just like a squirrel gathering nuts for the winter, but a squirrel gathering nuts for years (perhaps). I don't mean to sound melancholy--if anything, I'm seeing more in the autumn garden than I ever have before. And having fun with the camera along the way.

Cosmo v. fly

Tachinid fly--scourge of the monarch

Paper wasp

Unique design

Add caption

I've had the house to myself the last few days, and in an effort to focus on the next book by making metaphorical room, cleaned up my office (I see carpet!) and tossed many old student papers. The latter is always particularly sad for some reason--all I need to do is see a name or read a sentence, and I instantly know that student again, the class, the context, the conferences we had, the good agony of living through language. It's hard trashing all that work, but I don't have any need for it. At the same time, I feel cruel--like a mother robin pushing out young from the nest. I suppose I had my chance, did what I could when I could. Fly, papers, fly. (Better than burn, papers, burn--right?)

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Leaf Project and Bee-tude

First, my entry for Gardening Gone Wild's October Picture This Photo Contest (whew), part of my autumn leaf project. This is Cassia hebecarpa, or wild senna.

Yesterday, before I cut the cosmos and brought them in, I was able to get this shot of a bee. I was lucky with it--the wind was howling and the bloom rocking, as was this rudely-interrupted bee. Rocking. She flew off, bouncing into the siding a few times, over pollinated I presume. I hated to cut the flowers, but a freeze was imminent.

Well, my job applications for university teaching positions are out after weeks working on them. Hopefully, in December, I'll hear I've got some interviews. Then maybe in January some campus visits. Then.... Can you tell I'm excited and hopeful? Right now it's back to organizing research for the Oklahoma memoir--which I better start writing in November. Today I'm re-reading accounts of Custer's slaughter of a Cheyenne village near where I grew up in Oklahoma, and it's simply just hard to get through--particularly because the world hasn't changed that much since 1868. Well, uh, sorry... bee happy and look at that last photo above.

Monday, October 17, 2011

The Rooting Season

I never know what to make of a season, or for that matter, a time in my life. Years from now I'll remember moments only by vague notions, switchbacks and curvy roads, metaphor and insinuation, a moment of displaced memory mixed with some present sensation that takes me back and replaces time, giving deeper meaning. I shift, multidimensional. You know what I mean--how the juniper scent takes you back to your grandparent's apartment, or the taste of cinnamon on your tongue to a Sunday morning, or the way the wind lifts the leaves high enough to cross the sun and eclipse your vision for a second and you are twelve again.

The only reliable constant is motion. The universe is expanding as our experiences are, our sensations, and when we stop having those experiences, whether by choice or circumstance, we falter. I think this faltering tends to happen a lot in winter, but it doesn't have to. Growing up in Minnesota people had no choice but to go outside to maintain their sanity, becoming a more winter hardy folk (or doing a good job of pretending). Of course, plenty stay holed up inside until April. But you can't do that.

I look at the garden and walk it everyday. I will ride down this week like a nurse or loved one at bedside as the hard freeze comes. We'll have the wind knocked out of us, but we won't die. Thankfully there is rest. And I can guarantee myself, and you, that life is so fast, that so much happens, that it will seem like only yesterday that is was fall and the first hard freeze occurred. I won't even remember the date. It is October, but it might as well be March and the green is just coming up from the mulch, and in disbelief I think it's moss or mold.  But the only way that will happen is if I live and don't brood, don't become frozen in nostalgia. It may be easy for someone who's 35 to say that, though.

I'm not too worried about winter. I'll take the time I need to hunker down and shift my energies to my roots (writing, reading, hopefully job interviews), just as the perennials are set to do now. I know we are connected, intertwined, if not physically then in something much more real and tenable--time is nothing. Get out there in the coming cold and smell the goldenrod once more, how it reminds you of your grandmother's perfume. Gather the fragrant mountain mint and put a clump on your desk. Dig your numb fingers into the still-warm soil and know your home, yourself, even more. This is your ceremony, touching the roots and the microbes, gathering and storing the nutrients of memory that will feed you well into next spring.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Moth Leaf Bloom Day Thing

Seeing the below moth makes me want green eyes--gives me an idea for a Halloween costume (but who will be my goldenrod?). And the leaf is from a series I'm working on that I'm thinking has Etsy written all over it.

Monday, October 10, 2011

We've Got Color & Blooms Until the 11th Hour

Did you know it's October? Neither did I. I went outside a few days ago and saw what you are about to see. Finally, after four years, the troublesome upper slope of the garden is starting to fill in--and I purposely have it as fall blooming so I can see it from the house, as if on a stage.

Bald cypress (rust), Aster 'October Skies' (blue), Amsonia (yellow), Sedum (red), Baptisia (green)

You might think this tired and worn, but I find the above view stunning and rich--a haven for winter birds.


A view from the deck.

This is our west fence, and it always provides a bucolic view I'm envious of, since it's not visible from any of the windows.

L-R--Viburnum nudum (red), Miscanthus 'Nippon' (white), and the Asters and Amsonia.

The last few days have seen warm temps, and in conjunction with the asters blooming, a final resurgence of butterflies. Yesterday we even had 5 monarchs on the Aster 'Purple Dome,' surely their favorite fall nectar source. This garden pleases me immensely (though it isn't perfect--every year only one part of it is, and since this is a drought-like fall, the shrubs aren't as showy, but the flowers are doing well). As I garden year after year, this small landscape teaches me more and more about my own fleeting existence. It was just yesterday that the coneflowers bloomed; it was just yesterday when I got my first car and headed off to college.

I can't wait to see how plants mature next year, but I know too they won't last. As I get older, lust turns to love, looking to the future becomes patience and looking to the now. It's a slow process, and I'm sure I won't have even begun to learn it when I'm old and (more) crotchety. But at least with my hands in the soil I can temper my humanity--a good thing, even as an owl hoots from dark trees as the last bit of light settles behind them.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Boring Post Title, But Nice Pics

Not feeling talky, am feeling pictorial. So let us see the garden in early fall transformation, or, where did 2011 go, exactly? Luckily, the asters and late goldenrod are still bringing life to the garden, and will for 2-3 more weeks. No frost yet, though it was 33 two nights ago. Appendages crossed.

Tree frog 6" from aster bloom

Fly on Eupatorium 'Prairie Jewel'

View outside bedroom door

Monarch charging up in AM

This male hung around all night before leaving--the last one

Maple leaf--click to expand

Black chokeberry leaves

Playing around with roof geometry

Looking southwest from the fountain--quite full, huh?

Hadn't seen this aster in 4 years!

I like the aster branch against the jagged grass

Side oats grama

Sculpture 1, with indian grass

Sculpture 2, with indian and switch grass

An 8' eupatorium against chokeberry
There is much change in the air, and it is more inside the house than out. No, we aren't pregnant, but my mind is swimming with the future--something I try not to do in my life too much. For the first time I will collect some seed this fall and store it away, perhaps using it in a new place next summer. Or perhaps not. What I know about uncertainty is that, in the past, it has made me sick and lost, spun around like a record. But now I'm older and seasoned, and uncertainty feels more like hope, more like faith, more like precision (negative space?).

Even if the world falls apart, if the leaves really do drop at any moment, there is a constancy in the loss, an accretion of wisdom and patience in the speed of the season, death, and birth. I'm not sure what I'm saying, other that in a time in my life when I could, and maybe should be afraid, I feel the most confident and certain. Time accelerates, and yet I feel steady and patient, leaning a little more into the wind, making ready. I know this is vague. But the story is in the pictures above--and it's not mine alone. Just look at the frog.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Gypsy Moths, or Beloved (a fall poem)

tremor in the walnut grove,
stand of near emptiness where I once stood,
demolished, hooked
unto a sorrow as the moths
belong now to these branches, the smoke
and burn of twilight,

the dreamers aroused,
unbound from their nest, wings unfurling walnut
tree-patterns, adult colors—
bronze and gray of decay, although
they are newly born.

This is the why and the way
of how I love them: savoring the end-
of-summer’s diminishing hours, unafraid
of the coming dark, enthralled by the applause
of bodies caught like hatchets
in the bark.

-- Paul Bohince