Summer’s End

The sense of summer slipping away is palpable, almost physical, and I feel the impending loss of the season, as if there was something as solid and distinct and tangible as summer to lose, as if its edges did not emerge and dissolve by degree. Calendar be damned.

Still, even as I write this, I hear the sound of my younger son doing as I asked, which was to fill two 5-gallon buckets with apple drops for the pigs. He’s down in the orchard but the sound of the apples against the bucket bottom carries well, and for a moment I wonder if there is any other sound just like it. Deciding that maybe there is, but if so, I do not know it. Deciding that if ever there were a harbinger of summer’s end – whenever, however it might come – the sound of apple drops against a bucket bottom would be it. Slow-changing colors of the green hills be damned.

Yesterday, driving a dirt road far from here, but as like the ones close to here that I might have been only minutes from home, I met an oncoming tractor towing a hay wagon, a young man at its helm, the empty wagon weaving gently side-to-side. I pulled far over and he waved, looking tired. It was near the end of day.

Our older son is gone for four months. There’ll likely be snow on the ground by the time he returns. A sizable dent in the woodpile. The house feels quiet, neat, and bigger than it needs to be. I hugged him goodbye, wishing I’d thought of something small to give him, something to mark the occasion. But I hadn’t. Maybe I’ll think of something for his return.



He Always Has Before


Coming home from the woods

In the morning, after chores but before breakfast, I walk up into the woods. The rain has been a steady companion over the past few days, and my boots are soon soaked through, along with my jeans nearly as high as the pockets, the exact height of the undergrowth, so thick in spots that I cannot see the ground.

I find a patch of chanterelles, then another, and another, and still another, orange as, well, oranges against the forest floor, an entire shirt full and so many more left for another day. I wander for a while, then head for home, where the last cord of firewood awaits, needing splitting. I cook the mushrooms in butter and new garlic and eat them from the pan, sitting on the front stoop, letting the early sun warm me. The cats stop by, roll on the ground a bit, rub my ankles. I finish my breakfast. It is 7:30 and the clouds are closing again. Down in the little stretch of orchard pasture I can hear Pip lowing for her calf. He must have slipped under the fence. He’ll find his way back again. He always has before.




In the field across the mountain road the farmer is making hay; this morning I walked up on the knoll behind the barn and looked across to that field, past the church steeple, over the road and the low-running stream, and I could see the long, serpentine windrows of raked hay, could hear the distant clatter of machinery, could imagine the smell of drying grasses so perfectly it hardly mattered that I couldn’t smell them at all.

God but it’s been a summer. Weather so perfect I don’t even know what to say. Though already I notice the diminishing daylight; it’s dark when I awake, and it’s dark again before I’m ready for bed, and this morning I felt chilled while doing chores for the first time in I don’t know how long. I split and stacked firewood after chores; my family is away, and I’ve promised myself I’ll have the firewood finished by their return, though I also promised myself I’d have it finished by the first of June, and we can see how well that worked out.

I guess I don’t write here much anymore, though in my head I’m always writing. The world is so full of stories, but I’ve felt a little greedy with them lately. Recently I heard someone define a writer as a person who is willing to let the dream of writing die, which I took to mean that to actually write, to wrest the words out of our heads and onto paper, means accepting the truth of the process, which of course is never as wondrous as the dream. Which I guess makes it like pretty much everything else.

I thought I’d be able to say this better. See what I mean?

The breeze is picking up. It might rain tonight. We could use it. I’ll sleep with the window open above my head, hoping to be woken in the night by rain on my face.