“Autumn that year painted the countryside in vivid shades of scarlet, saffron and russet, and the days were clear and crisp under harvest skies.” ~ Sharon Kay Penman, from Time and Chance

Autumn Enveloped, Spring Grove Cemetery &; Arboretum, Cincinnati by David Ohmer

“The heart of Autumn must have broken here,
And poured its treasure out upon the leaves.” ~ Charlotte Fiske Bates, from “Woodbines in October”

Saturday afternoon, partly cloudy, hotter and humid, 85 degrees.

Any day now we’re going to get a break in the weather and have nice fall temperatures. Any day now.

Corey is working on the fence again. Somehow, the goats and horses have all found ways to escape from the pasture, which I know is frustrating the hell out of Corey. At the moment, Beric and Daisy are in the back pasture, and the rest of the goats and the two horses are in the large pasture, or at least they’re supposed to be. At the moment, they’re on the front porch.

Autumn Reflection Spring Grove Cemetery & Arboretum, Cincinnati by David Ohmer (FCC)

Early this morning, after letting all of the dogs out, Freddy returned smelling of skunk. Fortunately he seems to be the only one who was sprayed directly, but boy did he get the full treatment. It was hellacious. I sprayed him with one of those dog calming sprays that I keep on hand, but that was only a temporary measure until we were out of bed. Corey gave him a bath, and that seems to have taken care of the eau de skunk.

“Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns.” ~ George Eliot, from a
Letter to Miss Lewis, October 1, 1841

Anyway, I had something in particular in mind for today’s post, and it’s an offshoot of my griping about the hot temps, but in a good way, if that makes any sense at all . . .

Climate experts (weather.com) say that 2019’s warmer than usual September means that leaves will change color across the U.S. about a week later than usual. I was unable to download the interactive map showing nationwide fall foliage peak dates, but I did manage to capture two dates showing peak time in our area, which is supposed to be somewhere between October 26 and November 2. Corey’s mom likes to try to catch peak foliage, so I’m hoping that this tool will be of value to her.

2019 Fall Foliage Map & Nationwide Peak Leaf Forecast (10-26-2019)
2019 Fall Foliage Map & Nationwide Peak Leaf Forecast (11-02-2019)

Apparently, each year since 2013, smokymountains.com publishes this interactive map for those looking for peak leaf viewing around the country. Wes Melton, a data scientist and CTO with smokymountains.com, told Travel + Leisure:

“The predictive fall leaf map helps potential travelers, photographers and leaf peepers determine the precise future date that the leaves will peak in each area of the continental United States . . . We believe this interactive tool will enable travelers to take more meaningful fall vacations, capture beautiful fall photos and enjoy the natural beauty of autumn.

Although the scientific concept of how leaves change colors is fairly simple, predicting the precise moment the event will occur is extremely challenging . . . The major factors impacting peak fall are sunlight, precipitation, soil moisture and temperature. Although we cannot control Mother Nature and ensure 100 [percent] accuracy, our data sources are top-tier and each year we refine our algorithmic model achieving higher accuracy over time.”

Moving the slider at the bottom of the actual interactive map (found here), will display the best opportunities for when and where leaves will be near peak, at peak, and past peak in the coming weeks.

“How beautifully leaves grow old. How full of light and color are their last days.” ~ John Burroughs, naturalist

There’s nothing quite like a hike in the Blue Ridge Mountains in autumn. It’s something that I first began doing right after Caitlin died, and I’ve tried to do so as often as possible over the years since, in particular along Skyline Drive, the historic 105-mile National Scenic Byway, which traverses Shenandoah National Park in Virginia. There are nearly 70 scenic overlooks along this north-south route. I have stayed several times at Skyland Lodge, which is located at the top of the drive. Go here to see available lodging in and around Shenandoah; I would recommend the cabins for a more rustic experience.

A view of Skyline Drive in late fall (NPS image)

Another beautiful route for viewing fall foliage in the mountains is the Blue Ridge Parkway, which traverses 469 miles through 29 Virginia and North Carolina counties and spans the southern and central Appalachians. The Parkway links Shenandoah National Park to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Lodging here is varied and includes B&Bs, lodges, cabins, and hotels, among others; we stayed at Peaks of Otter Lodge the year I was pregnant with Brett.

Bittersweet memories . . .

By the way, since I always get this confused, I thought that I’d offer a clarification: The Blue Ridge Mountains (Eastern US) are part of the Appalachians (eastern counterpart to the Rocky Mountains), which are a system of mountains forming a barrier to east/west travel and extending 2,000 miles from Newfoundland to central Alabama. The Great Smoky Mountains (SE US) are a subrange of the Appalachians and a part of the Blue Ridge Mountain Range. Shenandoah National Park is in the Shenandoah Valley, which stretches 200 miles across the Blue Ridge and Allegheny Mountains. The Allegheny Mountains are part of the Appalachians.

  • Mountain range: series of mountains
  • Mountain system: group of mountain ranges
  • Subrange: seen as parent-child relationship (Appalachians parent to Blue Ridge child)

Got it? Me neither. More later. Peace.


Music by September’s Birds,”Honey, You Don’t Know”


Autumn

All day I have watched the purple vine leaves
Fall into the water.
And now in the moonlight they still fall,
But each leaf is fringed with silver.

~ Amy Lowell

 

“Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it. The river was cut by the world’s great flood and runs over rocks from the basement of time. On some of the rocks are timeless raindrops. Under the rocks are the words, and some of the words are theirs.” ~ Norman MacLean

  

           

“Many a time have I merely closed my eyes at the end of yet another troublesome day and soaked my bruised psyche in wild water, rivers remembered and rivers imagined. Rivers course through my dreams, rivers cold and fast, rivers well-known and rivers nameless, rivers that seem like ribbons of blue water twisting through wide valleys, narrow rivers folded in layers of darkening shadows, rivers that have eroded down deep into the mountain’s belly, sculpted the land, peeled back the planet’s history exposing the texture of time itself.” ~ Harry Middleton
Currituck Sound, NC

Sounds of soft rain outside the window, punctuated occasionally by quiet birdsong. Much cooler temperatures. The perfect day to read a book . . . or perhaps not. 

I have been thinking about water—rivers, lakes, oceans. I was reading Janson’s blog today, and he was talking about his affinity for the Atlantic Ocean, how it is so much a part of him. I can relate to that. The Atlantic is my ocean. I have lived on both sides of it. I have seen its brown-green hues to the north and its amazing blues to the south. I have swum in it, floated in it, dived beneath its waves, and traversed it in different crafts. 

I have sat on the shoreline and let the waves roll over my feet, tickled by the froth of receding water. I have watched fiddler crabs scurry away from the waves, and open-beaked pelicans dip below its surface to catch food. 

No matter where I go, I always feel that I am home when I exit the Hampton Tunnel and see the Chesapeake Bay spreading out before me. No other air smells like sea air; no other air feels like the salt-infused spray of sea air. 

“Rivers are magnets for the imagination, for conscious pondering and subconscious dreams, thrills, fears. People stare into the moving water, captivated, as they are when gazing into a fire. What is it that draws and holds us? The rivers’ reflections of our lives and experiences are endless.” ~ Tim Palmer
Dark Hollow Falls, Skyline Drive, Virginia

It is no coincidence that when I choose to go somewhere for vacation, it is almost always to a destination that is near water. Even in the foothills of Virginia, I can get the two things I love to see the most: water and mountains. Peaks of Otter in Bedford, Virginia overlooks Abbott Lake. This mountain retreat is located along the Blue Ridge Parkway. Guests can sit on their porches at sunset and look out on the beauty of the lake and the surrounding mountains. 

When we go to Skyline Drive, I love most those paths that lead to water, like Dark Hollow Falls, a small natural waterfall. Chincoteague is an island on the Eastern Shore of Virginia where Corey and I have spent a few long weekends. A short drive to the south is the Outer Banks, a favorite day-trip to see the dunes of Kitty Hawk where hang gliders try their skills. 

I know that I get my love of the water from my father, whose hometown in the Philippines bordered on a powerful river. My mother is terrified of the water and cannot abide boats. Yet one more way in which they were opposites. 

My father taught me to swim in the Chesapeake Bay. My mother would always worry that I would fall into a sinkhole and drown, which actually does happen. 

But it’s more than just bodies of water. I love rainstorms, thunderstorms. One of my favorite memories of my father was sitting on my parents’ back porch with my dad, both of us silent, just watching the lightning and listening to the rain and thunder.  There is something mystical and magical about water. It holds the power to create and the power to destroy. It nurtures, and it kills. 

“But I also know that in places, the river still runs deep, and though I’ve floated it in these places, it hasn’t revealed itself in such obvious ways. I know that it might be months—years, even—before I understand what it has to teach me. I still need to give myself over to the flow and pattern and rhythm of it to learn its lessons and hear its messages. The river is inside me now, I know, and I need only wait and see where the current takes me, and what lies beneath it.” ~ Jeff Wallach
Mountain Swimming Hole Similar to St. Mary's

I know that I’ve mentioned diving naked into a deep pool of mountain water while hiking on St. Mary’s trail near Steele’s Tavern, Virginia. It was probably one of the most sensuous moments of my life—sensuous, not sensual. All of my senses were heightened: the feel of the cool, clear water on my skin, the way that mountain water has a smell like no other water. It was like being bathed in the water of life. I mean, who knows how old that body of water actually is, when it was formed. 

Water is timeless, which is what is meant by the saying that you can never step into the exact same body of water in the same way because the water has moved, shifted, traveled, and so have you. Neither is the same as at the first meeting. Still, water never seems to forget those who are at home in it. Slipping into a pool of water is completely natural to me; for me, there is nothing to fear. 

The human body is between 55 to 78 percent water. Almost 71 percent of the earth is covered by water. The human brain is 70 percent water, and the lungs are almost 90 percent water. 

Water of life. Water is life. The two are inextricably intertwined. 

“No, life cannot be understood flat on a page. It has to be lived; a person has to get out of his head, has to fall in love, has to memorize poems, has to jump off bridges into rivers, has to stand in an empty desert and whisper sonnets under his breath . . .We get one story, you and I, and one story alone.” ~ Donald Miller, Through Painted Deserts
Cascades, Virginia

Water has been the source of inspiration for writers, painters, and poets since time began. Claude Monet devoted years of his life to the water and water lilies surrounding his home in Giverny. His water lilies paintings ranged from small to room-sized. The hues and shading in this series are so deep and luminous that it is not hard to imagine seeing what Monet saw. 

Water is infused into every part of our lives: songs (“Cry Me a River”), books (Peace Like a River), poems (“At Blackwater Pond”), movies (Titanic). One of the books that I used to teach in my literature classes was Kate Chopin’s The Awakening. It’s a lovely little book about one woman, Edna Pontellier, and her gradual awakening to life and its possibilities. Throughout the book, Edna undergoes a series of encounters with water that leave her both enervated and rejuvenated. Water and Edna’s relationship to it is the primary liet motif of the novel. 

In one of my favorite movies and books, Michael Ondaatje’s The English Patient, the two main characters are destroyed by their all-consuming love. Katherine dies in the desert, but in the last lines that she writes, Katherine speaks of life and death in terms of the senses: “We die containing a richness of lovers and tribes, tastes we have swallowed, bodies we have plunged into and swum up as if rivers of wisdom, characters we have climbed into as if trees, fears we have hidden in as if caves.” 

That description has stayed with me for years. The people who have come into and left our lives throughout the years are like rivers of wisdom, each of them teaching us something, not necessarily something we wanted to learn or to face, but some piece of knowledge nevertheless. We swim through the waters of our own experiences, each day, each month, each year, moving with the flow of time, not smoothly but like water over rocks. A force that cannot be stopped.  

“I am one of the searchers . . . We continue to explore ourselves, hoping to understand. We like to walk along the beach, we are drawn by the ocean, taken by its power, its unceasing motion, its mystery and unspeakable beauty. We like forests and mountains, deserts and hidden rivers, and the lonely cities as well. Our sadness is as much a part of our lives as is our laughter. To share our sadness with one we love is perhaps as great a joy as we can know—unless it be to share our laughter.” ~ James Kavanaugh 
 
 

Sailing on the Chesapeake Bay 

In my life, I have walked beside many waters, tasted the brine and the sweetness. I have sailed atop the water in small 16-foot sailboats and aboard huge ships. I have dived in fearlessly, and I have stood back, content to watch the ebb and flow of the water in its endless movement.  I have decided that when I die, I want to be cremated and to have half of my ashes spread on the Atlantic Ocean, and the other half spread on the foothills of Virginia, the places I have loved the most. 

I do not desire to be planted in the earth, to take up space in some container. I wish to return to the soul of the earth, to the very hollow of existence, to become part of the ever-changing beauty, the evolving mysteries, the eternal rhythm that is the essence of nature, this life, this world. 

More later. Peace. 

Music by Great Lake Swimmers, “Mariner’s Song” 

                                                                                                          
At Blackwater Pond
  
At Blackwater Pond the tossed waters have settled
after a night of rain.
I dip my cupped hands. I drink
a long time. It tastes
like stone, leaves, fire. It falls cold
into my body, waking the bones. I hear them
deep inside me, whispering
oh what is that beautiful thing
that just happened?
 
~ Mary Oliver

  

“It is not by muscle, speed, or physical dexterity that great things are achieved, but by reflection, force of character, and judgment.” ~ Cicero

Male Cardinal in the Snow by synthman19872003

“Whatever you do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius and power and magic in it.” ~ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Blue Jay in the Snow

I’m cold, tired, and my back hurts. What better time and frame of mind to hammer out some new year’s resolutions. Let’s get started then. I resolve to do the following in 2010 (in no particular order, just as they come to me):

  1. Write more—more frequently, more regularly, more faithfully, and with more purpose.
  2. Read more, well, just because it’s something that I love, and it relaxes me.
  3. Try to get along better with eldest son even though his personality is so much like my ex-husband that sometimes the lines blur.
  4. Get back into a regular exercise program. This is one that I’ve been wanting to do for a long time, but let’s face it: I don’t exercise at home. It’s just not a conducive environment. I need to get back to the gym, a place where I will be shamed into working harder.
  5. Do more with my photography, as in, not just take pictures and leave them on the memory card for months. I love Photoshop, so I should use it more.
  6. In conjunction with Number 5, I would love to get a photo printer, but that’s at te bottom of the priority list.
  7. Get that new Logitech mouse that I’ve been eye-balling for two years. The price has to have come down by now.
  8. Work on our credit score; of course, this one is dependent upon Corey starting a new job and no major problems occurring, but both of us want to accomplish something with this.
  9. Paint my bedroom. No. Still hasn’t been done.
  10. Be a better friend and stay in touch on a more regular basis with everyone who has moved away.
  11. Work on finding a literary agent by the end of 2010. That gives me a year.
  12. Pay back Corey’s parents the money they have loaned us. Must do this.
  13. Try to be more patient with my mother. This is a hard one.
  14. Find the perfect squooshy leather purse so that maybe one day I can purchase it.
  15. Plant flowers in the spring. This used to be so important to me. I need to get back to it.
  16. Go to the Virginia foothills and Skyline Drive. It’s been too many years since we’ve done this, and it doesn’t involve spending a lot of money.
  17. Get a pedicure or two or three. Sweet indulgences are a necessary part of life.
  18. Give up chocolate. Okay, so maybe decrease my chocolate intake. I was able to do this once before, so I have no excuses.
  19. Help to support Corey in his goal to register for college classes. The irony is that if we’d known he be out of work this long, he could have registered a long time ago and already be finished with at least a year of school. Bitter irony.
  20. Female Cardinal in the Snow by Dovey
  21. Get a bird feeder to hang in the back yard where the dogs cannot get to it. I miss my backyard birding.
  22. Be more patient overall. I have gotten more patient and less bitchy in recent years, but I still would like to make fewer assumptions and be less prone to getting upset.
  23. Take my vitamins. No-brainer.
  24. Play the piano more. I am so out of the habit, and this, too, relaxes me. 
  25. Try to get on a regular sleep schedule, you know, like normal people.
  26. Declutter. This is a big one as it means that I have to let go of some things, which I don’t like to do, but the decluttering must be done.
  27. Smile more. I’m not a person who smiles a lot, and it’s not because I’m unhappy or angry, I just don’t smile, so maybe I should make a concerted effort to try more, as long as I don’t end up looking like some kind of idiot.
  28. Give back more. Our trials and tribulations have been heavy, but so many others are facing the same and worse. Giving back is the right thing to do.
  29. Go on a retreat. I promised Brett that we would do that this past summer, but then we didn’t have a vehicle or any cash. This year, for certain.
  30. Read more poetry by new writers. I’ve let myself get behind, and there are so many great poets out there just churning out work that needs to be read and shared.
  31. Finally, continue to work on letting go of things from the past. I’m getting much better at this, but I still need to work on it.

“Tenderness and kindness are not signs of weakness and despair but manifestations of strength and resolution” ~ Kahlil Gibran

Cedar Waxwing on Icy Branch by johngomes

Admittedly, none of my resolutions are earth-shattering. That’s the whole point. I wanted to create a list of things that are absolutely possible to do within the next year. Nothing on my list involves spending a lot of money; more things involve dedicating time. I have nothing but time, and I need to get back to doing productive things with my time.

Notice that I didn’t put the big one on there about losing weight. I’ve decided that if I start taking better care of myself, stop eating so much chocolate, and get back into exercising, then the weight thing should balance itself. More of that attempt to be realistic.

I wish you luck with whatever resolutions you have made, whether or not you share them. May the coming year be filled with good opportunities, moments of insight and grace, and abundant love and happiness.

More later. Peace

I really wanted to feature Coldplay’s “The Scientist,” but had a hell of a time finding just the right video. I settled on this one with scenes from the movie Wicker Park (which I haven’t seen yet) as it seems to fit the song better than any of the other ones:

 

 

                                                                                                                                       

XVII from Pablo Neruda’s Still Another Day

The days aren’t discarded or collected, they are bees
that burned with sweetness or maddened
the sting: the struggle continues,
the journeys go and come between honey and pain.
No, the net of years doesn’t unweave: there is no net.
They don’t fall drop by drop from a river: there is no river.
Sleep doesn’t divide life into halves,
or action, or silence, or honor:
life is like a stone, a single motion,
a lonesome bonfire reflected on the leaves,
an arrow, only one, slow or swift, a metal
that climbs or descends burning in your bones.