• Tag Archives fall
  • The Devil’s Weather

    Imbolc                                                                      Cold Moon

    It is these middling days, when the sun shines and water melts off the roof, these days when the natural order seems poised for a sudden change, that make me want to hide deep in a bunker coming out only for true deep winter, May and the crisp days of fall whenever they might come.  A weather purist me.  I want a fall with blues that make you want to disappear into the sky, chill winds, golden leaves.  I want winters with crunchy snow, temperatures that curl your hair and winds that howl all night.  I like, too, those brief moments when the earth discovers growth again, when plants, leaves and flowers ascramble with color, fling themselves out of the ground, eager for food and light.  The rest, those dreary drippy days of mud and slush can go to the devil, whom I’m sure invented such weather as a metaphor for our usual approach to values.  Give me weather with a knife edge or the shocking beauty of a pre-Raphaelite painter.  That’s what would get me out of my bunker.  For the rest, bah.

  • A Year of Two Springs

    Fall                                                  Full Autumn Moon

    A cool rain and a chilly fall evening with wet gold stuck to the bricks and asphalt, a low cloud cover and darkening twilight skies.

    Though ready to travel there is a sadness in missing the rest of fall, the transition from this still part summer, part cooler season time to the bleaker, barren time of November.  It is a favorite season, the continuing turn toward the Winter Solstice.

    We will leave it behind, first for the warmer, much warmer Western Caribbean, then sweaty Panama and hot Ecuador.  As we move south, we move into spring with milder temperatures, then, in southern Chile among the fjords and glaciers and around Cape Horn, the southern equivalent of the far north, where temperatures will be cooler.  So, for us, 2011 will be a year of two springs.

    And, a shortened fall.

    Meanwhile, Mark in Ha’il, Saudi Arabia faces 97 as a typical daytime high.  Gotta wonder what global warming has in store for the desert kingdom.  Sort of the old petrocarbons coming home to roost.

  • A Melancholy Garden

    Fall                                                  Waxing Autumn Moon

    In spite of the 80 degree plus weather it felt like a fall day outside.  The sky blue, the clouds white, the sun weak.

    Collected the potatoes.  After Mark carried the harvest inside, I put the potatoes on slatted wooden shelves that slide into our root crop storage system.  They went into the garage stairwell for a couple of weeks of higher humidity curing, after which they will return to the pantry and await their turn in the pot.

    The garden beds have begun to empty out.  Most of the tomato plants are down, the garlic left in July, carrots, for the most part, harvested.  The major crop still left in the ground is the leeks.  These are Musselburg Giants and they have grown thick and tall, dark green leaves on top, so much thicker than those pencil lead thin plants I started in the hydroponics.

    Fall gardens have a melancholy feel.  Plant matter turned brown, fruits and vegetables collected and eaten or stored.  In northern climates a garden’s year has its temperature controlled limits, after mid-September growth slows and begins to stop.

    By October most things have stopped growing altogether.  By November even the hardiest plants have either disappeared underground with food stored for the winter or given up struggling with the cold nights.


  • Seasonal Pilgrimage

    Fall                                           Waning Harvest Moon

    Each turn of the Celtic seasonal calendar I find ideas, personal reflections, astronomical or traditional lore to pass along.

    This time I’ll pass along one from Waverly Fitzgerald who maintains a website, living in season.

    She suggests a seasonal pilgrimage, a visit each turn of the year to a place that, for you, embodies the energies and essence of the new season.  This recommendation struck me because I have a place myself, next to the Carlos Avery Wildlife Refuge, the Bootlake Scientific and Natural Area.

    To get to my sacred area I walk back through a field, it formerly held a house, now gone, traverse a crescent of young oak and birch to emerge in a circular meadow filled with furze.  Across the furze and to the northwest is a path back into the woods, not long, that takes me to a parcel of land between a pond on the south and the marshy edge of Bootlake on the north.

    On this land between the waters stands an old growth white pine, a white pine with a crooked top, probably the main trunk broke off in a storm or lightning strike and a secondary branch took over, but at an angle from the main.  My guess is that this deformity allowed the old giant to survive the woodsman’s axe.

    In a ring around this older tree are its offspring, a small grove of younger white pines who now stand sentinel around their older parent, a conversation now lasting at least a hundred years of more.

    A portion of Tully’s ashes came with me one day.  I scattered them around the base of the tree, then sat down with my back to its trunk, snugged in between two great roots while I gave thanks for this Irish Wolfhound who had taken a special place in my heart.

    At other times, often on New Year’s Day, I have visited this sacred grove, the air often below zero, snow crunching, black crows watching me from high atop leafless oak.

    This small place, away from the city and the suburbs, a place intact, has been a refuge for me for over twenty years.  I visit it still, though less in the last few years.  It’s time to return.



  • Following the Old Religion

    Lughnasa                                            Full Back To School Moon

    Summer has three endings:  Labor Day which marks the end of summer vacation for many school children; and, for many adults like myself, kicks us into serious mode as all those years of conditioning continue to affect our attitude;  Mabon, or the Fall Equinox, which comes tomorrow, that point when day and night balance each other, neither claiming dominance, though the trend matters and at this equinox, the balance tips toward night as the darkness increases, pulling us toward the longest night, the Winter Solstice on December 22nd and Samhain, or Summer’s End according to the old Celtic calendar which divided the year in half, Beltane-Samhain or the growing season, and Samhain-Beltane or the fallow season.  Samhain comes on October 31st and, like all Celtic holidays lasts a week.

    The growing season has this triple farewell reflected too in the holidays of Lughnasa, the festival of first fruits, Mabon, the peak of the harvest and harvest home, and Samhain, the end of the harvest season and the end of the growing season.  No matter how you notice or celebrate it these real changes in the agricultural year still happen, they still have critical importance for our human community, and they still deserve our attention.  Why?  Because our ages old relationship with agriculture is what separates us from the hunter-gatherers.  Agriculture allows us to live in villages, towns and cities by producing surplus food on farms in much the same way that the honeybee produces surplus honey while still making enough for the colony to survive on throughout the winter.

    Without those who farm, there would be no surplus food.  With no surplus food we would have to revert to subsistence agriculture, growing what we needed every year or hunting and gathering.  This would prove daunting since most of us have forgotten or never been taught how to grow food, how to hunt, how to identify edible plants.

    This is the great hidden reality for many, if not most, urban dwellers, who make up, since 2008, over half of the world’s population, a projected 5 billion people by 2030.  Without  a healthy eco-system, one that can support intense tillage, that is, sustainable tillage, the world’s urban dwellers will be bereft of something they cannot do without:  food.  Add to that the pressure on the world’s fresh water supply and two fundamental sustainers:  food and water are at peril.

    Granted following the holidays of the Great Wheel will not work magic–sorry to all my Wiccan friends–but it would remind us all, 8 times a year, of the source of our sustenance.  That would help.  Naming our days after these holidays (I do it in the upper left of each post) keeps that reminder fresh.  Our sustainers, mother earth and father sun, do not require us, do not need anything from us, yet they will support us if we live within their limits.  These holidays began when our ancestors realized the need to remind themselves of the delicate, fragile harmony required for human life to flourish.

    Over the course of the years and centuries and millennia since, hubris has lead us further and further away from the old religion; we have replaced it with  idols, fetishes, really.  We will, at some point, pay the price for our blasphemy as we upset that harmony, creating an environment that will no longer sustain human life.  Only if we step back from our profligacy can we ensure our survival.

    Knowing the rhythms of the natural world, of the agriculture that feeds us, of the systems that keep water fresh and available, is our only chance to avoid apocalypse.  Will we do it?  I don’t know.

  • Rigel. Again.

    Lughnasa                                             New (Back to School) Moon

    The partisans of summer have begun to moan its passing here in the north country.  Those of us who love the fall and the winter have only begun to savor the cooler nights, the lower humidity and the reduction in thunderstorms.  The harvest has begun, though much lies ahead.

    Rigel, again.  So, I got up early this morning, took my peavy and my swede saw, and trudged, a bit bleary eyed, back to the fence and the fallen down tree.  The peavy was no help, as I suspected it might not be, because there was no way to achieve leverage with it.  The tree balanced on the fence above the ground.  Nothing for it then but to use the swede saw.  After some huffing and puffing, the trunk broke in two and fell away from the fence on both sides.  I put the electric fence back in place, then walked the entire perimeter to be sure I hadn’t missed anything.  All this before my morning tea.

    Got inside, the tea on its way and cereal in the bowl when I noticed a flash out of my eye and saw Vega looking down into the perennial garden.  I got up to find Rigel just on the other side of the gate.  She had pulled herself over it.  Sigh.  This time Kate and I decided what we needed to do and since Kate was on her way to pick up meds and money for my trip she went to her favorite store, Home Depot.

    We let Rigel out to eat and I watched her.  She started to pull herself over again.  I went and said, NO.  She moved away from the gate, ate some food, went off in the yard to romp with Vega.  Not five minutes later I saw a blur on the deck.  She had launched herself over the gate from a full run.  Geez.  Kate, the front door.  I’m going after her.  Rigel went into the front yard, ignoring me.  Kate came out and called her.  Rigel ran, not toward Kate, but toward the front door to the house.

    She is now in her crate as we seal off yet one more escape route.  She tests our ingenuity.  Regularly.

  • Samhain Comes

    Fall                                                    Waxing Dark Moon

    The last night of fall, tomorrow morning will be Samhain.  In my personal sacred calendar Samhain marks not only the end of summer, but the first day of Holiseason which runs until Epiphany, January 6th.  There are so many holidays, family times, solitary days and days of spiritual pilgrimage in Holiseason that I decided to celebrate the entire two months plus.   The Winter Solstice has become the key holy-day in my sacred year, really I should say holy-night, because it is the darkness and the length of the night, the cold of winter that puts the magic in it for me.  No matter what holiday you celebrate during Holiseason, put your soul into it.

    See you when the veil thins and the faery folk cross over.

  • Changes

    Fall                           Waxing Dark Moon

    The leaves have finally changed color in our yard.  It happened almost over night.  Many went dry before they turned, but more have become red, gold, yellow.  The colors of fall are as much a part of our landscape as the snowdrops and daffodils are of spring.   Fall’s color gives us one last Times Square moment from the vegetal world before the emphasis moves to the monochromatic grace and elegance of winter.

    Sounds like Dr. Mary Ellis may visit over Thanksgiving.  The Singapore government nixed an earlier visit due to the H1N1 virus.  Mary’s had a lot going on over the last four years.   Working and finishing a dissertation has never been easy; it consumed extra time and holidays.  This would be the first Thanksgiving I can recall in a long time that she would be here.  It’s always good to have family around during holiseason.

    Kate comes home today.  Her primary exercise for the next bit of time will be walking.  Yes, she’s up and about.  No 100 yard dashes in the near term, but moving is good, real good.  She cannot twist, so no Chubby Checker’s music on the CD player.  She also has to bend at the waist, no flexing of the back.  She will need percocet for a few weeks.

    Fortunately hand work is how Kate spends time while listening to lectures at continuing medical education so she has projects to keep her busy.

    As soon as she’s able (maybe right now), she can also start using the treadmill.  5 minutes at first, then more as she heals.

  • Like A Snowball Rolling Down Hill

    Fall                                       Waning Blood Moon

    The change of seasons has picked up some momentum in the past couple of days with two hard freezes in a row, then snow last night.  We’re not in late fall yet, that won’t come until November, so we could still have Indian summer, but for now, we’ve moved into meteorlogical simulacrum of early November.

    It changes the feeling here.  Jackets come out, gloves go on, stocking caps replace billed caps.  There is, too, the phenomenon I used to notice most at Macalester College when I  lived in St. Paul.  One day with below freezing temps and certain Mac students would walk the streets in heavy down coats, hoods up, scarfs around the neck and insulated mittens.  Often, they would have special winter boots.  These were the wealthy kids from points south whose parents grew worried when they realized their darling would have to bear a Minnesota winter.   Freshman to a person, I’m a sure.

    As for myself, I love to have on warm clothing when it’s cold outside.  The air braces me, kick starts the mental engines.  The combination of a warm torso and a cold face is a pleasure others–those outside the cold belt–would have a hard time understanding.

    The snow blower got its mechanical freak on in May so it’s ready.  The furnace went on here today, set at 59.  We’ve had almost three weeks with no heating and no cooling.

  • Estranged

    Fall                                   Waxing Blood Moon

    Tomato picking and compost bin rebuilding, the bulk of the morning.  To keep our young pups from celebrating life by knocking down the straw bales out of which I designed this compost bin a wire fence now encircles the bales, with an other, shorter wire fencing material for a gate.

    The day started chilly, but has warmed up to 69.  It’s one of those fall days when the Andover H.S. Marching Band can be heard carrying pompoms and the thud of padded football players in its wake.  As this sound comes across the fields of vegetables and the cul de sacs between our home the football field, I become at once both younger and older, thrust back to Alexandria High School and Friday night football while by necessity comparing that time with the present.  It’s not an unpleasant feeling, just a bit strange.

    Caught episode 1 of a Harvard class on Justice taught by Michael Sandel.  It’s well worth the time.  Sandel’s teaching style combines the Socratic/law school method of hypotheticals with analysis of responses.  The engagement of the students makes it obvious Sandel is a teacher as well as a philosopher.  I only want to comment on one, striking observation he made about philosophy.  “Philosophy,” he said, “is not about something you don’t know; it is about making you look at what you know from the perspective of a stranger.  Philosophy creates an estrangement from our own experience.”  This is so true, as is his follow-on comment that once you gain this insight you cannot go back to the naive state.

    Every hour of every day I see my self and the world through the lens of philosophical analysis, the lens fitted over an anthropological  camera body.  The two together make the world a strange and exotic experience at every turn.