In rain and light

© Gary Joe Wolf

© Gary Joe Wolf

 

Send me a leaf

 

Send me a leaf, but from a little tree

That grows no nearer your house

Than half an hour away. For then

You will have to walk, you will get strong and I

Shall thank you for the pretty leaf.

 

—Bertolt Brecht

(Translated, from the German, by David Constantine)

 

Tonight, tonight. The streets are slicked in rain, smooth like a bathing elephant’s skin. There’s the sweetness of being alive in the wet, the beautiful feeling of washed air magically coupled with the rich wildness of fall colors. Honeyed yellows deepening to red. Marmelade. Occasional veins of magenta. Some chartreuse, even paler than usual in the street lamp glow. Leaves.

Downtown there are ashes everywhere. Not from fires, per se, but the leaves of those street trees are lit in a burning yellow, loosing halos to the earth below. They lay in crowds around the tiny squares of soil surrounded by cement. I love the young things lining sidewalks and medians, dappled in their golden leaflets, but here in my neighborhood I am lucky and rich with ancient oaks and sugar maples instead, all shimmering in chiaroscuro.

The aesthetics of rainy nights never fail to floor me. The shine, the sounds, the solitude. Tonight I walked, wearing heels from a night out, click clacking down one street to another. A skunk was out–my sole companion, glowing white as it browsed one of the area’s larger lawns. It was a quiet, quick, nonchalant creature, not remotely interested in me or a car that sped and splashed by. They die that way, thinking that they can fend off station wagons by spraying them. But this skunk just stayed on the lawn, nibbling in the headlights as I watched under my hood with hands in my pockets. Eventually I turned away, my mind in the night, my heart and soul rinsed in warm weather and beauty.

I’m riding with the trees through transition. Last week I left Allandale Farm, the place where I’ve spent the last three years of my life. In August I’d begun my new position as the horticultural manager at Flora Explora, a landscaping company that deals primarily in Chinatown and Southie properties. It’s a big change, and I’m grateful for it. Leaving the farm and taking up with Flora is giving me the opportunity to learn about botanical entrepreneurialism as well as the space to hone my landscape design skills. And it’s given me a sweeter schedule, one that leaves me feeling more solidly on my feet. I wake up remembering my dreams. I’m alive in phases, in the changing moon and lengthening nights.

This evening as I strolled I stood below a ledge-grown maple whose roots bulged hiphigh. I felt a gnarl and raised my face, my eyes climbing crevices and arms toward the canopy. I listened to the sound of leaves, green but brightening toward yellow. Fallen raindrops fell again to lower leaves and limbs. My eyes were full of light, of the chlorophyll that, come morning, will keep working until it is all shut down and captured within wood til spring’s great bud break. I looked up, my chest full of light, my mind racing with life, rushing with the knowledge of all the ecology seen and unseen before me. My heart felt like the set of Ferngully. I felt like Ferngully. It was magic, and it was a tree, and it was two blocks away, and it is October.

The velvet, breezy, bizarre din of wings

katydid

Common True Katydid, courtesy of bugguide.net.

In the day the cicadas continue to drone on, offering their squeaking moans at once and for hours, turning the neighborhood to hazy, humid white noise that surrounds and fills you completely–your ears, your clothes, your skin, your gut.

In the night, however, I keep waking, wondering about the racket pulsing around me. It takes a few seconds before I realize and remember: crickets. Fascinatingly loud, percussive and choral, they strew the night with rhythms. Their steady, nearly flute-like notes carry the background as the various katydid soloists rasp at the air. One common true katydid claws KAY TEE DID with his forewings, another one answers, KAY TEE DID, usually with a touch of overlap, a little bit higher or lower than the first. Their cousins, the sword-bearing coneheads, tst-tst-tst through the night, starting at twilight, and broad-winged bush katydids start their tzeet-tzeet quietly before letting them go unleashed, roaring loudly into the night. 

And now, lists.

squirrel

Marvelous squirrel on loan from Maximo Alaez

Wednesday: 

The blue heron billowing across the sky in the morning.

An osprey, flying above us as we greeted a friend just returned home. Never thought I’d see one of them in Boston, but there it was, its wings bending like elbows as it traveled toward the Arboretum or toward the sea. Apparently sightings of them aren’t quite so rare as I’d thought.

I picked several pounds of elderberries at the garden and in-between the branches found a mockingbird giving me a Look.

Thursday:

While brushing my teeth I crept into the kitchen to find the crazed squirrel that’s been trying to live indoors for the last few months. It scratched at the metal screen and hardly moved as I shooed and cussed it away. It finally left when I really got in its face, waving my toothbrush around like a fourth-rate wand.

Friday:

I thought that Moby Dick, my beloved snail of nearly two years, was dead, but then Matt pointed out that he/she wasn’t. As a reward for its liveliness I offered it a thick twig chartreuse with lichen.

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