No more running

Fall ritual

Vermont summers are fierce and semi-tropical. Not in temperature or humidity, but in explosive plant growth. The growing season is short. Everything that grows here is intent on getting as big as it can as quickly as it can. The fields and forests burst with green. Grape vines climb the maple trees. Morning glories slither their way into the wisteria branches. Honeysuckle and raspberry bushes grow thick and impenetrable. Corn grows eight feet high.

It’s beautiful, but in a somewhat claustrophobic way.

We’ve always laughed at the scene near the end of Hayao Miyazaki’s animated film Castle in the Sky, where the villain, Muska, pursues the heroine, Sheeta, and her magic crystal into the throne room of the eponymous castle. The castle is a ruin, inhabited only by a robot and centuries of plant growth. Muska, on entering the room, chasing Sheeta, desperately needing to get his hands on that crystal, pauses, looks around the the room in disgust and says something like, “Ugh. These PLANTS!”

I’ve heard M think that same thought on many a July day as he looks across the yard and see the vines strangling the apple trees and the lawn he just mowed visibly growing.

It’s enough to make you wish for a flame thrower.


You have to admire the peace of a day like today. We’re at the top of the roller coaster’s hill, at the far end of a pendulum’s swing. Everything is clean, shorn, stacked, coiled, compact, tucked in for the winter. If anything’s growing, it’s growing inward, downward.

This morning I pulled the grass from around the bases of the blueberry bushes and spread fresh pine mulch around them. I sat in the dry grass and pushed the mulch around while the dog sniffed around for leftover blueberries (wishful thinking, oh silly dog). I had this song in my head the whole time. I felt short and small, like a plant rooted to the land, ready to be steady, firm, and quiet.

Tucked in for the winter



Oh gosh, today has Monday written all over it.

It started cold and predictably grey after a week or more of dark and dreary days. Where’s that brilliant October slant of light that’s made to cheer us even as November stealthily stalks us?

But I see a glimmer this afternoon, sunlight on the hills, picking out the few, stubborn remaining red leaves as if to spotlight the fading luminaries of the autumn floor show. Time to take final bows, put the folding porch chairs and the garden hose away, sweep the porch, remember where we (gleefully) stowed that snow shovel last spring.

You know how I feel about this.

But I have some antidotes in mind. Some new projects, another stab at NaBloPoMo (really? really. hmmm).

And when all else fails, in the face of bad news on the radio, sad news from far-off family and friends, dark afternoons, and the usual palette of worries and anxieties, I offer you my sister’s new baby: Brutus. Three months old and you just can’t be too sad when he’s in the room.

First taste of the river

Too fast

Those ears



October pup


Caught off guard

House and fog

Fall notice

Dew veil

Liberty apples


Bread & Butter

Valençay - 2 weeks old

The end of August.

Just two weeks ago we were in the full langour of summer. And now? It’s decidedly fall. You’d think after all these years I’d be used to the sudden tilt toward September, but it takes me by surprise every year.

Unlike the linear transition from spring to summer, this time of year has a somewhat Möbius logic, the seasons fighting each other for possession of each day.

The mornings begin in a cool autumnal fog, the ground between the house and the barn littered with freshly fallen maple leaves, the filmy webs in the grass speckled with dew. By mid-morning, the sun’s burnt through the fog and the slanting light glances off the apple trees’ browning leaves. In the afternoon, the puffy clouds are riding the hill ridge, and the air is warm and humid. Thunderstorms are possible. And cookouts. Summer teases again until the early sunset when the cool air rushes in. Fall again.

This time of year, I feel like I’m sitting on the pin of a hinge. Neither here nor there. I can see in both directions: backward to the long lazy days and the porch-sitting nights; forward to the apple pies and glowing pumpkins. I like both views. It would be nice to be able to stay here for awhile and savor the vista.

But, as it always does, time rushes forward and we must get to doing things.

School has begun. High school, mind you. And it’s grand. So far.

I didn’t take a first-day-of-school picture of H this year because it just didn’t seem right. She was in a hurry out the door in the morning and seemed too grown up for that. But I have a picture in my heart, snapped in the school parking lot at the end of the first day: her close-mouthed (grown up), wide smile, a pair of uplifted eyebrows, and a “thumbs up” sign. “I LOVE high school!”

And with that, the end of August has kicked us into action. The firewood is all stacked (oh, I have pictures to show you, I do!), M’s been building things. We made jars and jars of pickles. And we’re finally back to making real cheese. Tomato jam, we made that, too, and have been wondering if there’s anything it wouldn’t taste good on (so far, the answer is “no”, although Avgolemeno is probably an unlikely pairing).

And did I tell you I actually got brave enough to meet with a cello teacher, and I’ve now had two lessons and last lesson I played a whole song accompanied on piano by my cello teacher? A whole song.

Last fall, I remember feeling a sense of promise at this change of season, and I’m feeling it again. This is not like me, but it seems to be becoming me. I’d just like to linger here for awhile, feeling freshly woken from a warm, slumbery season. I wish it would last.


What I wrote above, I wrote on Thursday, full of optimism. And on Friday, I learned that Seamus Heaney had died, and I was heartbroken.

I suppose that could seem odd. After all, I didn’t know him personally. I did meet him once, when he was visiting my university, a guest of my Irish literature professor. He briefly visited our class; he gave a reading later that week. I have the date, time, and classroom number penned into my copy of his collected poems. It was the beginning of my new relationship with poetry. When I learned what a poem could do to your head and your heart, how it could unscrew your scalp and let the universe pour in.

No, I didn’t know him personally, but I think it won’t surprise you to know that I felt I knew him personally, or, rather, that his poems became personal to me, and that he and they became a thread woven through my life, our lives. The books and the readings (three in all I was lucky enough to attend, two with Michael). The orange and white kitten I named after him. The leather-bound volume M gave me one year for my birthday. The paperback copy of Seeing Things we bought in a bookstore in Dublin on our honeymoon. Precious because it was purchased in Ireland, and one of the few non-essential things I allowed space in my backpack.


Seamus Sleeping ca. 1990

But all those things aside, of course, it was the poems.

To think there will never be another one from him is part of what breaks my heart. I know I shouldn’t be so greedy. He’s already given us so many. And still I want more. To have my heart feel airy and full of wonder, huge and embracing, tender and concrete, filling with the air of September or October, neither here nor there, blown open by his words.


And some time make the time to drive out west
Into County Clare, along the Flaggy Shore,
In September or October, when the wind
And the light are working off each other
So that the ocean on one side is wild
With foam and glitter, and inland among stones
The surface of a slate-grey lake is lit
By the earthed lightning of a flock of swans,
Their feathers roughed and ruffling, white on white,
Their fully grown headstrong-looking heads
Tucked or cresting or busy underwater.
Useless to think you’ll park and capture it
More thoroughly. You are neither here nor there,
A hurry through which known and strange things pass
As big soft buffetings come at the car sideways
And catch the heart off guard and blow it open.

–Seamus Heaney, from The Spirit Level (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1996)

I shall say this only once

I’m kinda looking forward to fall this year.

I know!

Who has taken over this blog, and what have they done with Rebecca?!

I don’t completely get it either, but I’m going to ride with this strange-but-nice feeling: not dreading the change of season, welcoming the cool breeze at night that suggests I tug the comforter a bit closer to my ears, anticipating the fall bounty, not whining (too much) as summer heads south.

In particular, I’m enjoying the oblique angle of the light, skipping over treetops to light the fields, the rocks, the flowers, the river.

I’m thinking a lot about apples. Cider, sauce, adorable little hand pies.

Oh, and chili and stews and mahogany-colored baked beans. Loaves of freshly baked bread.

Birthdays, holidays, and celebrations.

The fair.

A wide, dark sky, the milky way painted in a prominent arc.

Fall usually seems to me a closing door, the end of things, and shutting in until spring.

For some reason, though, I feel slightly hopeful about this fall. I feel the new, clean air like a bright edge of promise, a hard, clear dividing line between what was behind and what is ahead. It makes sense that the Jewish New Year is nearly here. A clean start, a shrugging off the lazy days of summer, a time to move inside, gather thoughts, gather friends, make feasts.

I don’t know how long this feeling will last. You can be sure of reading my moans and groans about winter come November. I’m not that utterly changed.

Ask me tomorrow, and I may deny everything.

Baked beans

Apple pie cookies










And Blue

First field