In autumn, I come alive. More so now than in California, but the very butter color of the sun hits me right in the solar plexis. [Get it, “solar” plexis.]
This morning I watched as 100 or so geese flew down the creek, low over the browning marsh cordgrass. They make so much noise as they fly, you can’t miss them. It seems to be the young ones saying, “I can’t keep up! When are we gonna get there?” and the mature ones answering, “Come along, don’t dawdle. Keep up with the flock.”
My mother always says that geese “oink.” James A. Michener renders it “Ank-or.” It renders me speechless and in awe of their beauty and power. I can’t spell what they’re saying.
Not long after 100 or so geese came swimming up stream. I have no way of telling if it was the same flock. They kept up the chatter, at any rate, with the fellows in the front treading water while the others caught up. My brother thinks that the geese that we see in the Fall here are ones from up North, who think that this is the balmy South where they can Winter safely. The geese we see in Summer around here, he suspects, fly further South to avoid our icy winters.
As I sit here, I hear a hawk keening. That’s from a Celtic word, meaning to weep and mourn. It is coming time for hawks to nest and, when they are done, the barred owls will use the hawk nests to lay their eggs. Ron and I watched a hawk from the dock Sunday evening. There was a wonderful brisk wind and the hawk was having trouble gliding, having to make course adjustments frequently. How embarrassing. The hawks—and therefore, the owls, nest across the creek from us in a stretch of evergreen trees. These trees are our dearest friends, since they hide the neighborhood over there from us year-round. The only way new know there are people there is that they mow their yards ALL the time. In just a few weeks, the deciduous trees growing among the evergreens will burn with color. Every year I try to paint those colors, but I haven’t even come close. I shall try again this year.
Another Autumn ritual has passed. We went to the State Fair in Richmond. They have just moved into new digs. I use that word on purpose because some things have been dug and not grown yet. As we were there on a Friday in the cool with rain threatening, there were few other folks there. We took along my brother Robert and his son, Sam, whom I have renamed Zattu, after reading Ezra in the Bible. [BTW, Ezra is a wealth of names. I renamed my sons Barkos and Harsha, and my other nephew Bakbuk.]
Two highlights of the day were the pig races and the tractor pull. Pig races, for those of you in ignorance, are for entertainment purposes. This one featured four breeds. Pigs basically are trained to run around the track to the Finish Line, where sandwich cookies are spread for them. Since their regular food is not sweet, they will do anything to get cookies. I understand the urge, and could barely restrain myself from joining them. Each heat featured larger and larger pigs, until Asian Potbellies came out. We were told of their prowess and speed, despite their appearance—i.e. bellies dragging the ground. When they gates were raised, they ambled, moseyed, poked, and, yes, stopped completely. The announcer told us that they were “eating up the track” and this seemed to be the case. [Rosaire’s Royal Races out of Florida.]
The tractor pull was, on the other hand, deadly serious. Tractor pulls are not the old time contest of hitching 2 horse teams back to back and seeing which team call pull the other backwards, NO! The tractors are hooked to a sledge/machine, with a solid plate on the bottom. As a weight slowly slides up the ramp of the machine, more weight is pressed on the plate, so that the plate presses more and more to the ground. The object of the game is to pull 200 yards. After each pull, a parade of road machines smoothes out the track, Zamboni-like. There are many classes of tractor, including some home-made, with motorcycle engines. I ask you, is this a tractor? The cool thing is that men and women can compete against each other.
Then I got to hold a bunch of snakes in the Fish and Wildlife booth.
A jay flew by, calling “Cat! Cat!” so I assume that Tangerine is on the hunt. The jay flew so close by the window I heard his wings… which made me think of “Wing-loud”… as in William Butler Yeats’ “bee-loud glade.” [‘The Isle of Innisfree”]
But I will arise and go now, and go to work the yard.
Soon to be raking leaves and harvesting gourds.
And my little cottage prepare for winter’s blast
In the wing-loud grove.
cSept 2009 Carol Kerr Buckles
(homage to Annie Dillard)