Advent

rain_beams

The winter rains finally arrived on Thanksgiving with the full moon. Rain slanted sideways blowing in sheets, gusts bowed the trees and swung the long metal chords of the wind chimes to smash against the southern plate window. This is the hard cold rain that smells of snow, the hard gray sky indistinguishable from the black streaming streets, dark shadows of fir standing sentry. The sun’s gone south. The moon is waning.

American Thanksgiving is observed on the fourth Thursday in November. In English, Thursday derives from “Thor’s Day,” the day of thunder in German and Old English, Jupiter (or Jove’s) day in Latin, with ancient Greeks naming it hemera Dios, the day of Zeus. (The Hindi name for Thursday is Guruwar, which might be related to the god Vishnu, but I will withhold further presumption as I actually don’t have a clue.)

Thursday, the day of the sky god, a day of feasting and football. Zeus rules  Thunder, Lightning, Weather, Air, Eagle, Bull, Oak, Olive, Lion and Wolf.

The Thanksgiving morning newspaper was slight compared to the newsprint that arrived inside: flyers and inserts advertising Black Friday sales and stores that would open at 2 PM.

The Dallas Cowboys always play a football game on Thanksgiving. Their symbol is a star.  I was there on Thanksgiving once, in Cowboy stadium (now renamed AT&T) to watch the Cowboys play the Seattle Seahawks, the closest thing I have to a home pro-football team.

When I walked Dad’s dog, Ben, Saturday-after-Thanksgiving through the affluent yet middle-class streets I grew up in, women strode through their yards inflating Christmas figures arranged on the front lawns, frowning as they hung strings of lights in shrubs. Men balanced on ladders and cursed enthusiastically. Ben growled at the life-size effigies of Swiss Mountain dogs in Santa hats as we passed. I wondered if the giant Frosty the Snowman figure would be exhausted and deflated by solstice. Thanksgiving came early this year.

I finally sorted through the last remnants of food from Thanksgiving week today: whipped cream languishing next to a blackened half-avocado, wild rice forgotten in a yogurt container, bits of local Chanterelles fermenting now in clotted cream and cold pappardelle. Advent begins December 2nd.

I watched a flock of wild turkeys spar as they pecked at windfall apples in the road.

It’s dark when I get up. This morning it was too early, too dark. Mercy squeezes under the bed to sleep. She sings like a whale sometimes when she wants me to get up; perhaps this morning she was merely dreaming. She stole my flannel robe from the foot of the bed and I had to parley a bit of chicken jerky for its safe return.

The kitchen lights above the stove warm a sheltered circle. I catch slivers of my reflection in the window as I give the dog her breakfast and drink my juice. The tea kettle I’d cleaned before Sunday’s dinner party is splattered again with last night’s sauteing. It is the kettle, I think, the kettle I miss most before I leave.

 

Last Shine on the River

mercy_shine

You do not have to be good.

You do not have to walk on your knees

For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.

You only have to let the soft animal of your body

love what it loves.

Tell me about your despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.

Meanwhile the world goes on.

Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain

are moving across the landscapes,

over the prairies and the deep trees,

the mountains and the rivers.

Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,

are heading home again.

Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,

the world offers itself to your imagination,

calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting —

over and over announcing your place

in the family of things.

—Mary Oliver, “Wild Geese”

Jumping Hoops

mercy_hoop

I saw Venus rising before the sun through the evergreens yesterday, before the fog floated up from the creek basin, burning white fire as the morning star.

Frost forms; fog forms so thick that visibility is limited to 50 yards until the sun gathers strength to burn away the veil. There was little rain this fall. The open ground is still packed hard, not yet softened down to mud.

When Mercy and I walk down the hill to the park, I wear canvas pants with reinforced knees and hiking boots. I scan for critters in our path while I counsel the dog, talking mostly so that cats and wild creatures know we’re coming. If they have any sense, they retreat. The crows call out when I close the gate; the quail stop to listen before withdrawing into the blackberry brier.

“She has a strong prey drive,” the veterinarian says, even though the vet hasn’t been wrenched and whiplashed  when a deer bounds across the road and up into the stands of fir, an understatement.  We go down to the hard-frost grass in the park as the sun melts the fog. I throw the tennis ball.

There’s a hoop left behind by some night dancer.  I roll it along the ground and the dog chases the bouncing rim growling, uncertain how to take down the unfamiliar creature. She seizes the hoop finally and holds her head high on return, jumping through the empty space, first two legs, then four.

November

Home is where one starts from. As we grow older
the world becomes stranger, the pattern more complicated
Of dead and living. Not the intense moment
Isolated, with no before and after,
But a lifetime burning in every moment
And not the lifetime of one man only
But of old stones that cannot be deciphered.

–T.S. Eliot, “Four Quartets”

 

Becoming a Writer

“You can have talent, but if you cannot endure, if you cannot learn to work, and learn to work against your own worst tendencies and prejudices, if you cannot take the criticism of strangers, or the uncertainty, then you will not become a writer. PhD, MFA, self-taught — the only things you must have to become a writer are the stamina to continue and a wily, cagey heart in the face of extremity, failure, and success.”

–Alexander Chee
“How to Write the Autobiographical Novel”

Frost Warning

flower_jail
Flower Jail

It’s November, suddenly. There’s electricity in the air, a sense the storm is coming, wires buzzing. Maybe the feeling builds with election day tomorrow. In Oregon, we vote at home and mail-in the ballot to be counted, or save a stamp by dropping it off  in a designated box. I voted days ago. Campaigners trudge up the steep hill to knock on the door and set the dog barking while I’m trying to write. They leave garish oversize flyers wedged in the door that flutter away. It’s November, again.

A high pressure system will shove out the rain and bring nighttime temperatures down into the 20’s this week. Today I finally cut back the leggy dahlia, geranium and fuchsia foliage dangling from their pots on the deck. I cut the potted pink rose to stubble. Perhaps they will overwinter another year, if the weather is kind enough, perhaps not. I’ll cover them with old sheets against the frost and hope for the best.

Work done so many weeks ago comes full circle to fruit and seed.

I was notified that I won the 2018 Oregon Writers Colony Writing Contest in the short nonfiction category.

A fruit,

a seed,

a frost warning.