Saturday, August 26, 2006


Fall whispers: a delicate, if not subtle susurration.

I have taken lately to sitting on the front porch of our old house this past week. I sip shiraz-cabernet and puff gently on the Swisher Sweets that, still being cigars regardless of their charming moniker, disgust David. I cannot explain why I've taken up the nightly puffing except that, I suppose, I'm passing through another phase (my "crotchety" phase, as some family members have suggested) and the little cigars with the plastic tips seem, well. appropriate right now. I am, after all, too young to be "crotchety." Or am I?

I listen to the cicadas (do we have cicadas in Denver?) or the crickets, in unison, pulse their hypnotic song against the darkening night and I wonder why they still try; why, this late in the summer, they still call to that, apparently as yet unidentified, mate; the primordial pulse of the promise of propagation. It is a wonderful sound. I lose myself in its monotony.

The giant and ancient Silver Maple that fronts our property appears almost black--the hanging branches so profuse this year, so happily replete with ten? a hundred?-thousand leaves. The black shape flows slightly with the breeze, moving ever so gently as an ocean tide at no moon.

The clutch of three Aspen trees that have grown thick and tall this spring and summer huddle there at the corner of our little yard. The coruscation of their leaves--caught in the gentle breeze--is a playful dance, reflecting the gleam from the streetlamp four houses down.

Did you know that an Aspen grove--six, seven thousand trees, or more--is the largest living organism on the face of the earth? Did you know that an Aspen grove will give extra nourishment and water to trees in its clutch which are failing, ill? Did you know that if the ailing trees in the grove do not respond to the good deeds of the whole, the whole will withdraw the extra care and let the trees pass on, die? Or, at least that is what our guide told us (Greg, Clayton and me) on our recent horseback ride at Piney Lake, in the Eagle's Nest Wilderness area of the White River National Forest.

Yes, and then there is the Blue Spruce that our neighbor, Sue, planted ten, twelve, fifteen years ago close to the fence that separates our front yards. It was so small, so beautiful then. She planted it close to our fence because, she said, it would grow to complement the extreme pitch of the roof of our old Victorian. And, now, as I sit upon the porch and sip my wine and puff the poison from my Swisher Sweet, the Blue Spruce looms huge, full, against and through the fence that separates our property from our neighbor's. The Blue Spruce is also--now, at night--just a shadow against the sky.

By the third of fourth summer of a total of ten summers of lifguarding at city pools (this was at least a thousand years ago, by the way) by mid-August, the signs, the portend of fall did not escape me. The daytime shadows moved and--albeit still experiencing days of ninety or more degrees--the very air, the sky, the precious paltry whiff of a breeze foretold the ineluctable adjoining of seasons. This lesson learned from all those hours upon hours of sitting, walking or standing--clad only in one brightly colored Speedo or another (green, blue, red, orange) with a whistle around my neck--and , with intense vigilance, caring (I really did care!) for the lives of the kids and the parents and the jerks and the idiots and the rest of them, including "tax payers," who took to the water; yes, by the third or fourth summer of eight to ten hours in the sun, the subtleness of the seasonal change became, perhaps subliminally at first, obvious.

Two things came from those long hours in the sun. One, like the other creatures of the earth, I learned to understand the hints of nature--hints, that to some species, send them south or from the highlands to the lower valleys or upstream or downstream or cajole them to gather the sustenance that will take them through the big freeze ahead. Two, the cumulative affects of all that glorious sunshine, all that ultraviolet contagion has left me with only half of the top of my right ear. Squamous cell carcinoma. I await the certainty when another part of me will be sliced away. (Please, don't let it be the nose. I have such a nice nose.)

I have four Swisher Sweets left. I've told David that once this box is finished, then I will be finished with the nastiness of what I have promised myself will not become a habit. I'm indulging in the puffing only because I'm going through my "crotchety" phase anyway. Aren't I?

I believe, though, I will continue to sit myself down in one of the two Adirondack chairs on our old front porch, sip the shiraz-cabernet and just simply be amongst it all, amongst the sublime mystery of it all.

No comments: