It was very cold overnight – the first frost warning of the season. The light is beautiful now, yellow and thick, sliding down trees’ trunks and pooling around their ankles like shed clothing. I feel the common longing that possesses me annually in this season – I want time in the trees – time behind the lens – time in my handmade books and on pages full of writing.
We sleep deeply – I sleep as dead – the skin stretched over my cheekbones is cool, as is that one shoulder and knee, exposed to the outside air. The rest of my skin is warm and cradled – my nose and mouth against Angus’s shoulder or pressed to the middle of his soft scented spine. The chill slipping through the open window helps us sleep without stirring – except to draw each other in closer.
I try to fill my retinas with the thick light, compose lines of poetry and pick shimmering hands-full of lacy native grasses – prayer flags of Blue Grama – counting the lashes to predict the severity of the Winter – glass blossoms and rosy stems of Little Bluestem – one-sided, dangling ornaments of Side-oats Grama – these plants have spoken soft poems to me for as long as I’ve known their secrets and their names. The early russet flowers of Buffalo Grass have given way to calligraphic golden strokes – mats of whorled stems like plump pin cushions – soft and plush underfoot. I’m always surprised how few people notice the color and grace of their lovely decline – and it pleases me how well suited they are for their place.
This morning, a silver rime from the marriage of breathing earth and chilled air lined he house-roofs. Frost sparkled in the early sunlight - bejeweling the ground. It’s puzzling that this seasonal riot of the senses is not equally celebrated by everyone – each fine detail floods my brain with lines and shadows. The sky in October is so wild with its crop of clouds – they swirl, shaped by invisible thermals aloft – they looked scaled like the sides of dragons, cirrus and scarlet in the morning sunrise. The vault of sky and cloud seems so much bigger this time of year.
The trees, shyly dropping their leaves are showing their bare, dark frames – spare skeletons – their real forms. They are far more alluring undressed than in the roundness of Summer – October’s slanted golden light slides about their limbs and gilds the sides of their thighs, then drips to the ground where their roots spread like toes gripping the Earth. My favorite tree is gnarled and dark – like a goblin against the lit sky. It is beautifully articulate in autumn, when her leaves drop like floating sheafs of paper that shuffle dryly to the ground. She has the look of a tormented soul – crooked fingers pointing upward and shoulders hunched, twisted and black. In summer, looking much like every other tree, her real nature is concealed. Each season I think I will find out what kind of tree she is – every year, instead, I marvel at her form until the leaves creep back in the spring to hide her identity away again. I think of trying to photograph her black gnarled body against the fitful skies of autumn, but haven’t because I worry that my attempts will make her look smaller – stunt her height and fearful grandeur. I may try it yet – perhaps this year – huddling around her knees and shooting up. When I imagine doing this – someone always stops to ask me what I’m up to with their fence-row and their tree – and in this drama I can inquire about her heritage – her ethnicity – her history.
I want to make pages of the shadows, the sounds, the scents, the russet sunsets and wild-clouded skies – I want to express them so they stay with me when I dream. These are the days I’m composed of – all light and long shadows – the days I crave in mid-Summer when the Sun is like a thankless silver mallet. These are days for sweet assignations, fiery passion, whirling madness, fierce love – and for burrowing down beneath the covers. These are days of paired kestrels and soaring accipiter, diving from treetops. The Swainson’s hawks have long ago departed for the swaying grasslands of Argentina, to fatten there and return for love in the spring. Jays call back and forth, their voices, shrill, raucous, carrying further in the cool, clear air. Smoky raven-chuckles drift down like leaves falling around our shoulders – the clever ones are already planning what they’ll do for winter amusement – how they’ll keep their sanity when the snows fly. This is the time for words – murmured against the skin of a shoulder, for twining limbs and drowsy kisses, for stories and making things by hand, for foods rich and spicy, full of fat and garnered ingredients. This is the time for looking inward—and reaching outward toward one’s lover—for resting in the whispering Northerly breeze and nesting like a pair of febrile ferns – spiraled, entwined, inseparable, pale – passing through the dream of winter.