I was out this morning under an umbrella of roiling clouds, scooping leaves from our two small ponds. With each gust, leaves shook from the trees in dervishes, raining yet more of autumn to float upon the water. But that’s okay. It’s a contemplative exercise, soothing to the spirit, and it’s just so beautiful.
At the back pond, on the margin between cultivated gardens and woods, I share the view with questing frogs and tree limbs studded with opportunistic squirrels. On the hill behind the barn, the beech trees rustle with roosting turkeys. I accept the invitation and go for a walk.
Passing by an old boxelder maple in decline, its trunk decorated with leathery Polypores, possibly Phellinus gilvus, though cupped. Further along, other Polypores, this time tiny Trametes versicolor spangle the sides of an old post. I step lightly. If I stay low as I approach the rise to the old TVA pond, I might get lucky, privy to a raft of migrating waterfowl. Instead, I surprise another squirrel and flush out our resident Blue Heron. And right there, a hundred paces up the hill, a half-dozen wild turkeys scratch amongst the beech mast. I climb to the top of the dam, stepping around the crushed and flattened leaves where a deer lay last night. From the tiny hoof prints sprinkling the mud, it looks like Mama’s idea of a good hiding place.
As I stand atop the weir, enjoying the fiery colors of sourwoods, maples, dogwoods, I know how blessed we are to live here surrounded by nature, that recently recognized – again – prescription for the ills of humanity. Some might disagree. Only along the ridgeline towering now above my head can we get cell phone reception on our flip phone. Internet is available only through satellite with its molasses paced speed; and as a consequence and by choice, neither of us has ever considered a Facebook page – unless you count the one my nieces set up for me as a joke fifteen or so years ago. They used an old second grade picture of me, chubby-cheeked and snaggle-toothed. For all I know, it might still be out there somewhere in the ether.
But John and I ground ourselves every day working in the gardens and striving to preserve what’s left of the history of this farm and these woods. This land was farmed with care and diligent husbandry for close to a hundred and fifty years, before it fell to a shiftless lot in the 1950’s. While digging another hole for a volunteer Magnolia macrophylla or transplanting another wood fern from up the cove, I still, on occasion, run my spade into a thudding mass of folded plastic, discarded and buried under fifty years of autumns and falling leaves.
It takes caring and mindfulness and plain hard labor to reverse the sacrilege of neglect imposed on a piece of earth. But we are thankful for the work, and blessed to realize we are but small particles in the divinity of nature. And that we must “first do no harm”, and then must never take more than our share.
Time to walk back to the house. I cut through the barn and look up at the rafters. No bats, the dusty quality of the guano on the ground below evidence that they’ve moved to winter quarters.
Past the tractor shed, I pause at the new garden pond, again, to dredge out a few more leaves. Looking about me, I see the squirrels are taking advantage of the stone wall, performing their own adaptation of the Nutcracker. Yep, Grounded and Blessed. That’s me.
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