Nestling Things

Today has been one of those miraculous twelve-hour-periods for a writer: wake up in the morning with what has the potential to be a bright idea and watch in surprise as it bursts into kaleidoscopic pieces that by the end of the day nestle into place.

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The Oregon Historical Society emailed their Holiday Cheer flyer and offered, by way of a technical, personalized click, to insert my book into my media postings. I could now send news of the event with my very own Far from Home on the shelf—and quite close to best-selling author Philip Margolin. “How nice to be tucked in with other books,” I thought, and decided that maybe my next blog might explore the theme of “tucked in.”

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What a surprise to see some berries tucked under the leaves. Although most stuck their heads out on twiggy necks, the hidden ones demanded that if I wanted to snap them, I had to angle the camera, move in close, and sacrifice a clear focus on green.

Unexpected as well was seeing bushes stripped clean, their branches like a wooden bowl whose task is to collect the dying.

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Autumn’s brilliant color that burrows deep into the earth happens every year, but never ceases to amaze me. I love this little poem of Adelaide Crapsey, woman of the strange name, but whose “November Night” captures with classic simplicity what I tried to describe with the bushes:

Listen. .
With faint dry sound,
Like steps of passing ghosts,
The leaves, frost-crisp’d, break from the trees
And fall.

Since the recent death of my sister Mary, mortality is never far from my thoughts these days. I have the olivewood crucifix she held before she died, her antique rocker, and her wall plaque that holds a vigil candle. I also have a battered family Bible (copyright 1914) she kept.

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And it was in this Bible that her daughters, Andrea and Lisa, slipped a photo, taken in 2016, a photo I had not seen before. There it was, tucked into Tobias. How many scriptural stories tell of nesting thing? Moses in the bulrushes, a sleeping Jesus burrowed deep inside the boat, and Corinthians reminding us that our spirits nestle deep in earthen vessels.

The day was almost over, and still there was one more piece of the idea to fall into place. At 5:00, the world turned dark and the rains came. A walk outside with the dog, but not too long because Angel and I were eager to head back into the warmth.

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And then I remembered that this time of year remains a favorite, not just because of hot cider and flannel sheets and a comfy throw in which to burrow, but the memory of childhood, when I was bundled warm and cozy beneath the covers, listening to my mother read from Eugene Field:

Wynken and Blynken are two little eyes,
And Nod is a little head,
And the wooden shoe that sailed the skies
Is a wee one’s trundle-bed;
So shut your eyes while Mother sings
Of wonderful sights that be,
And you shall see the beautiful things
As you rock in the misty sea.

Before sleep comes I want to remember how red berries hide in emerald nests and tired leaves fall into wooden bowls. I’m ready to be grateful for the day’s surprises. I am ready to discover, for a few brief moments, how to tuck myself, like a good book, into the shelf of the night.

Falling Art

The weather is colder now, the wind is up, and I know exactly where to find my WinterTrax cleats when the ice comes. I am afraid of falling. Yet there is an art to a soft tumble, as AARP tells us older folks. The safest route is to keep falling. The more we give in to the fall, the kinder it will be. Maybe that is one reason why autumn draws me, not only because of the color, but because in this season I am surrounded by lessons on fall.

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Leaves stay vibrant in oranges and reds on the branches, but they drift down in those colors as well. The grass becomes Nature’s wedding bed and the leaves like rose petals. Not the fragrance of passion and beginnings, but the deep, earthy scent of loss and endings. They slip beneath my feet and become their own nest in which children scamper and dogs romp.

Above, leaves turn color, transforming themselves into gold, holding fast against wind and rain. No question that a leaf- by-leaf tumble is still ahead. Even the squirrels take advantage. They nibble at maple seeds, like this little guy eating hungrily on the tree outside my window. Such a busy fellow, such a voracious appetite, such an eager helper for autumn’s falling season.

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A small cluster of leaves reminds me of O. Henry’s short story “The Last Leaf.” True to his gift for paradox, the author writes of  a young artist, sick with pneumonia, who knows that when the last leaf on the vine outside her window falls, she will die. But she is tricked into health because an old artist, laboring in the cold, paints a likeness on the brick. The young one lives, the old one dies. The story ends with these lines: “Didn’t you wonder why it never fluttered or moved when the wind blew? Ah, darling, he painted it there the night that the last leaf fell.”

Now this is a story that demands a willing suspension of disbelief.

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No artist’s final masterpiece can replicate autumn’s glory or keep leaves fixed to the maple outside my bedroom window. No paradox from literature can deny the barrenness and decay that follow autumn’s initial brilliant spectacle. What then is left for me? Thank the workers with leaf blowers who did not come. Practice daily the art of the soft, inevitable fall.