Poet’s Notebook: White Mountain Color

September and October have buzzed by at a hectic pace. One week’s “To Do” list is accomplished only to be replace with the next week’s list.  I feel like I will never get off this seemingly never-ending cycle.  I keep arranging and rearranging my schedule trying to find bits of time to breathe.  The bits are not enough, and I feel stress and anxiety creeping in.  I know that I have to make myself slow down and concentrate on what makes me healthy and whole.  I need to go back to poetry and photography.  I need to return to natural beauty.

This summer, my husband and I planned an October trip to New Hampshire, and I’m glad we did.  We thought that because of COVID we might not be able to follow through on our plans, but we found ourselves in dire need of nature and restoration.  We headed out of New Jersey, up through New York state, into the Green Mountains of Vermont, and into the White Mountains of New Hampshire.  The nine-hour trip slowly melted all my tension away.  As we drove, I watched the lush autumn scenery and forgot about all the things that need to be done; that tugged at me for attention.

I started thinking about how to capture what I saw with my camera and how to put words to the beauty I was witnessing.  I focused on color and played with ways to express the fall foliage in a new way. 

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.