Wind and rain strip all but the most stubborn of the remaining leaves. The forest smells so good now, there’s a weight to the smell of it, a tangible thickness, almost a flavor. I cut firewood nearly every day, so close to my longtime goal of getting a full year ahead that I’m already pleased with myself. I like to drive east, up the mountain and then back down it, following the wet track of packed soil and gravel as it curves through the woods. The leafless maples skinny as shorn sheep. Still no frost, though one is surely coming soon, and snow not far behind. The apples have dropped, and the pond is cold enough for second thoughts. The cows are on the very last bit of pasture grass, only a day or two remains. Then six months of hay. No: Seven. Dark comes early and leaves late and for the first time I find that it helps to wear glasses for reading. It’s not so bad, really. It makes the words look close up. It feels like I’m winding down. I tell myself it’s just the season, and I’m pretty sure it’s true, though it’s also true I’m barely a month from 50. In the morning it will be warm again and I’ll awake to rain so soft that it might just be mist hanging in the air.
I ride in the morning, half-light, warm, remnants of the weekend’s rain in the air as I pass the same hill farm I’ve passed dozens of times already this summer. Now the lights are on in the milking parlor and I hear the metronomic chugging of the vacuum pump, smell the sweet-warm smell of manure and baleage and watch the dry cows and heifers graze the very last of the season’s grass. Fallen leaves thick on the road’s shoulders and I purposely steer through the thickest layers of them because I like the sound they make beneath my tires. A mile or so later I pass a man standing in his driveway, next to the open door of his car. He’s peeing and not even trying to hide it, an impressive stream collecting into a puddle at his feet, and part of me wants to wave and say good morning, and part of me wants to let him pretend that I never saw a thing, though it occurs to me that maybe he could care less. He’s just taking a piss. We’ve all done it.
The days tick past with the same metronomic chug of that vacuum pump. I haven’t written here lately because it feels like nothing much changes, like maybe I’m just writing the same thing again and again and again. Though of course everything changes always, there’s proof of it everywhere – the falling leaves, the diminishing daylight, the pasture grass gone dormant, even lights on in a milking parlor where last week there were none. At the selectboard meeting Jan arrives with a fat wad of cash, $1250 in 100s and 50s that someone gave him to procure five burial plots in our little town cemetery, and as he counts it onto the desk I look toward the window, where I can see both my reflection and beyond it, to the shadowy outlines of the trees in the gathering dark.
James McMurtry has a new album. Lots of goodies, including this one. Also, here’s a great conversation with the author Richard Powers. Finally, I’m almost finished with this book and am really liking it.