by Mimi Hedl
Suddenly the landscape has changed, seemingly overnight. We’ve gone from intense summer to sumptuous autumn and my eyes cannot take in the beauty quickly enough. It would not be an exaggeration to say I’ve been gobsmacked. The orange of the sassafras, the reds in the sumac, creeping Virginia and maples. Bright yellow glows as the witch hazels and persimmons go about their changes. I walk around with my mouth wide open, looking and looking and wanting to fall on my knees, overcome with the beauty and wonder even when I know winter waits for his performance.
And isn’t that what these transitions in the life cycle give us, signs, signals of the constant change all things in this universe undergo? To tell us to glide from one episode to the next, to not fret, that a ‘mostly’ predictable transmutation occurs at intervals to make us pause, take notice that we do live on an ever changing planet. Introspection comes easily at this time of year, especially when the harsh, even brutal, summer has finally come to an end. There was no time for introspection then, we simply survived.
When I began to think about writing a piece for Barbara, the heat was still with us, as was the endless drought. The photographs I took now seem from another time, another place. And I guess they are. A few weeks, a lot of changes. And those changes continue. The temps will drop to the low 20’s in the next few days, and then a few days later, it’ll be 70 degrees, sunny and mild at night. I sure hope all the critters know how to handle these mind-boggling changes because this gardener has had a tough time deciding what to do.
The head gardener loves to prune and I must say, she has a good eye and can go after any tree or shrub, cut out the dead and overlapping branches and allow the tree to show its graceful presence. I admire her skill and gladly haul brush for her. It’s quiet work as she stays absorbed and thoughtful, stepping back often to look, tilting her head from one side to the other. It’s more than a pleasure to see her so happy and doubly wonderful to do tasks usually reserved for late fall.
With canning at a minimum, I had time to play too. I save up stuff that would otherwise go in the trash, and put them together in ways that make me smile, like Blowin’ in the Wind does. Whenever we cut a piece of our native bamboo, we often have little pieces we can’t use. We throw them in a basket and then, like this Bits and Pieces, we string them and watch the wind play. The next one will have much longer horizontal pieces so the birds can lite on them and swing too.
Wood boring insects created The Fierce Warrior, I simply rescued it from obscurity and gave him a platform to give pause to predators.
Jeremy brought me a 12 foot long white oak board that he was afraid would just sit and rot if someone didn’t do something with it. I appreciated his thoughtfulness and asked Patrick to put a bench together for me. While Petra was in Germany he had some time and came over and made this. He commented on how tough the oak was, how hard it was for his saw to cut through it, looked at our house and shook his head. Green oak is easier to cut. Old oak becomes stronger than concrete. We left the bench right where Patrick put it together. It feels wonderful under the mimosa and from this perch another world opens up.
Just like the world under the short leaf pine, our only native pine tree. I built an Aldo Leopold bench from junk wood as a place to sit and pretend I’m back in Colorado. Of course it’s the fragrance, the smell of the pine that takes me back. Because the branches swoop down so low, I can sit there, hidden from the world and watch the coming and goings of the zebra swallowtails in the pawpaw patch, birds of all sorts darting here and there.
One night not too long ago, the sky beckoned me. I took a blanket out to the hammock and lay facing the northern sky. If you’ve never laid in a hammock and looked at the night sky, do it! And again, enter another world. As I lay in the night chill, I thought about us coming to Missouri almost 40 years ago. I was thinking about Ron and our journey and all of a sudden, whizzzz! A shooting star came down so close to me I just may have been able to catch it. I blurted out, “You show off!” because Ron was just that, he’d do anything for a laugh and him streaking through the night sky seemed apt. I don’t believe in such things, but the coincidence of my thought of him and the shooting star were just too tempting not to put together and it’s just the sort of thing he’d love to do.