Rain Year

contorted_filbert_nut
Curling Hazel’s Nut in My Hand

It was a summer of subtraction: a thousand roots torn up, hundreds of branches cut and chipped, trees topped or felled, bone white holly wood stacked to dry for new year fire. Sammy, the dancing black cat, passed over at solstice. She, who skittered over the roof after squirrels, caught lizards, chipmunks, snakes, and grown jays to bring inside the house unharmed and release for play, grew old. Shore up fences against the winter wind and clear the gutter drains. I will keep the shoe box used to save Sammy’s prey on top the bookcase a while longer.

October starts a new count; the rain year began on the 1st. Soon after, a winter storm blew in from the northwest and took the leaves off the dogwood and shook the oaks. The fir sway and whisper together.

There is no moon tonight, it’s drained away and returned to darkness approaching the sun. A mirror, a pool, a puddle, seeking reflection, a black moon. Each month is a moon, with some added sprinkles, a seed, a struggle, fruit or frustration, an unwinding, a letting go. This new moon marks the end of all the late summer sorting. The season of weighing gold and grain after casting away the chaff is here.

Summer evenings I sat on the back porch and watched the planet Venus slip lower in the western horizon at twilight. Now she disappears from sight, fallen under the earth from the night sky, until joining the sun on October 25th. She rises as the morning star at the end of the month, a slim crescent, on All Hallows.

Crossroads and thresholds, liminal spaces we’ve arrived at or stumbled upon, another outcast stepchild in a fairy tale trying to solve the riddle of the Sphinx.

 


A note on “rain year:”

U.S.Geological Survey “water year” […] is defined as the 12-month period October 1, for any given year through September 30, of the following year.
https://water.usgs.gov/nwc/explain_data.html

Harvest Moon

aphrodite
Painted Tile in Author’s Collection

The equinox arrives Saturday evening, 6:55 Pacific time. Days and nights will balance, light and dark equal for a moment. Folklore says one might balance an egg on end during an equinox, but I’ve never done it. The moment passes while I’m distracted slicing a pear and the egg swivels and topples. Persephone descends to the underworld, the cloaked seed sleeping a seeming death. Six months ago, at the spring equinox, the light strengthened and grew. Seed pods burst and pushed into the air, leaves unfurled with Persephone rising. Now comes the time to let go. The harvest moon is nearly full.

fuschia_blossom
Fuschia

I have wandered and worked in the sun. In the dark and rain is the best season to write. Then I prop the door closed with a cast-bronze winged pig, enough to keep the heat from the oil radiator inside, yet wide enough for the dog to push her head through and, if she’s inclined, shove back the doorstop to shoulder through and lie down at my feet.

pashmina
Pashmina Collection

I have a small chandelier in the corner of my studio with battery-powered tea lights that still flicker without dripping wax. (Or threaten fire, if I forget them. An amazing feat of technology, this.) I brew a thermos of strong chai and stir in a spoonful of honey. In the dark and the rain, there’s less to see out the window other than the stony shades of sky and bare branches. The eye is released to turn inward, awaiting the shy wild shape of the work.

 

Practical Magic

“What is over, I can never finish.
The angel of work is sweat.”

–Rodney Jones

smoke_roses

I pulled the hood of my sweatshirt over my head this morning when I took my coffee outside. It was cool on the west side, with the sun breaking on the trees across the creek valley, yet not clearing the eastern hill across the road. Taste the first bite of turning, with the temperature dipped into the 40’s. Feel the urge to buy a three-ring binder and a wooden ruler, dust off my field hockey stick for afternoon practice.

The rufous hummingbirds will migrate south. They are slight and coppery, deviling the year-round Anna’s hummingbird when they appear in the spring. I wonder at such a fragile creature flying thousands of miles, like Monarch butterflies traveling to Mexico. I wonder how they navigate the Siskiyou range to cross into California. They will disappear soon, suddenly, with the cooler weather, take flight and no longer duel the Anna’s for sugar water and flower nectar.

The basil bloomed and, finally, I couldn’t pinch fast enough to forestall it. I made pesto. Grinding the herb with garlic and pecans, cups of olive oil, I forego adding parmesan and stack the containers like firewood in the freezer. The cheese does not freeze well. It will be added later, in winter when I cook, when I’ve forgotten the scent of summer.

trellis_melon

The cantaloupe is trellised. Mercy nibbles at the leaves while I water and eyes the melons. Soon.

The chimney is swept. No mummified squirrels were discovered, unlike in other years.

My contributor copies of Cutbank #88, University of Montana’s literary journal, arrived in the mail. I looked at the cover illustration of corn and lobster and thought it odd. Maybe it’s a crawdad, which makes more sense for a landlocked state, except the title of the image is “Beach Snack.”

The work of the summer season is ebbing, so the crowd at the Labor Day sale at the hardware store gathers up nails and paint, deck stain and waterproof tarps. We’re racing the rains now.

Lammas

August is an adjective, as well as a noun.

The sun turns and slants south, a rising late summer light heavy with dust, a sultry white sky rimmed with smoke. Ferocious maws of flame chew through dry tinder mountains near Redding, California: fire gnawing forest, suburban lawns, homes and bones. Ash rises in mushroom clouds.

Birch leaves turn gold and drop, skittering and rattling across the road; the first leaves to green in the spring, the first to let go. The trees clatter. The blackberries are early this year. In the evenings, a doe leads her twin spotted fawns to the berm across the road to feed on the ripe berries.

blackberries

In the full height and completion of summer, we arrive at the cross-quarter, here between the promise of the summer solstice and the inevitable falling away at the equinox. It’s in my bones, this season, the time of ripeness and venom. My mother broke a tooth chewing ice the night I was born.

When I walk out on the hill with the dog, hat brim low over my eyes against the morning sun, the ground is cracked and sparse with weeds. The grass withered and died. Wasps skim over the sereness. I watch my feet. Yellow jackets hover at the hose nozzle. They are early this year, angry.

I set up the trap on the top deck where they menace and hunt. It’s a simple jar filled with water and a drop of soap. The jar is intersected by a funnel fixed with bit of chicken for bait. The wasps are drawn in by the scent, but cannot find their way out again. They drown, their own nature betraying them, like most clever traps.