Signs of Fall – Listen, Look

This has been a stressful week to put it mildly: a heated election cycle, COVID rising in New Jersey and across many parts of the U.S., pending lock-downs, the seventh anniversary of my mother’s death.  I try to put things in perspective.  I concentrate on my work, my art, my friends, my family, and my faith. I try, in small places, to cultivate hope.  

I relish my time teaching immersing myself in reading and writing with young children.  I marvel at students who seek me out for help.  I do not have to convince them; they come eagerly with fresh ideas.  We develop stories together, we organize desks and homework, we think about spelling like it is an art instead of a chore, and we read together. Indeed, one of the most rewarding times in my day is reading A Bear Called Paddington by Michael Bond with a gifted first grader.  The naughty bear appeals to her and the British vocabulary intrigues her.  We talk about queues, lifts, lorries, mackintoshes, and marmalade.  She is all ears listening for new words that she does not yet know.  She gasps as Paddington stumbles into one predicament after another, and she enthusiastically anticipates outcomes. This time with her is pure joy.  I cannot clearly say whether I’m teaching her or she’s teaching me.  Our conversation, this exchange of ideas, is reading in its purest form, and I am grateful.

I turn to nature for solace, observing the season’s steady change: her flamboyant turn from green to scarlet to amber to tangerine, and the final turn to gray and rusted brown. I seek beauty in the decay.  I watch for patterns: geese and wild turkeys combing the fields for seeds, squirrels and chipmunks storing seeds and acorns, the deer’s coats turning from golden to tawny brown. The earth is preparing herself for after the harvest; she is ready for a long meditative sleep. This past week, I took some photographs and wrote a poem as I contemplated this change.  I tried to listen and look carefully to all that was around me.  I took notice, reflected, and attempted to capture the feel of this season.

 Early November
  
 The early November wind arrives
 Sounding a symphony of
 Rushes, whooshes, and shushes,
 Rustling leaves, rattle seed pods,
 Whispering softly in the grass.
  
 Black wings tattooed against blue sky,
 A cadre of crows circle
 Above the old golden oak,
 Caw-calling, caw-calling,
 Lamenting winter’s return.
  
 Damp earth and leaves – 
 Mottled brown, orange, yellow,
 Cover the bare garden ground,
 A protective patchwork
 Waiting for next year’s harvest.
  
 A lone crow lands on an old post,
 Surveys the garden no longer green.
 The wind rustles his black feathers,
 He cries of fall’s ending
 And then takes flight. 

4 thoughts on “Signs of Fall – Listen, Look

  1. What joy you emanate when describing your work with students! I love looking at spelling as an art and you little one enamored by Paddington, such fun! Then we get on to your descriptions of nature around you and your poetry talent is always enviable. Beautiful photos!
    BTW, did you know the collective noun for a group of crows is murder?

    On another note, Pinterest is my source of finding interesting taco recipes. 🙂

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  2. Thanks so much, Elsie – A Murder of Crows – Now that would be a great mystery novel! It’s going to be a taco night tonight! That asian chicken taco recipe appeals to me right now.

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  3. What gorgeous pictures, and what a wonderful way to cultivate hope. I love this line so much: “Black wings tattooed against blue sky.” I loved the way you read Paddington and see spelling as an art. So much to love here!

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  4. So much power in your post – from seeking beauty in decay, to those vivid descriptions in nature, to those gorgeous photos and the imagery in your amazing poem. I can see and hear those crows, lamenting. Strength and peace to you as you mark another year of your mother’s passing – here’s to the leaves of memory stirring anew and offering more solace.

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