Image captured on Saturday’s walk at a conservation district.
The juncos have returned, and when my husband and I depart each weekday morning, only streetlights illuminate the sidewalks for the first mile of our walk. Autumn has arrived — as has rain, which, so sorely needed all summer, has greened the lawn for dormancy and duped the dying begonias into rebirth, even as the oaks bury everything in yellow and brown leaves.
Punctuated by long nights and scented by benign smoke and wet leaves, the period between first frost and December is my favorite part of the year. The furnace is pressed into service by 5 a.m., and I, now be-sweatered and -socked from rising until bedtime, begin yawning before 6:45 p.m., but the rest is a sort of everyday magic, from the perfect circles bored into the pumpkins by what I imagine to be a stout but agreeable-enough nocturnal animal to the prehistoric trumpeting of the sandhill cranes as they gather in ever-widening circles over our home before beginning their journey away from the prairie; from the slant of the afternoon sun on the living room floor to the color of the sky when I collect the mail; from best-of booklists to seasonal menus… I adore autumn.
Earlier this month, we finished a geocache challenge we began [insert abashed head-shaking] 4.5 years ago. One morning, three sites, more than five miles of walking (1.2 of that on rugged terrain), and done. Finally. You bet we have proudly displayed our coin.
I love the prairie! So often I have seen the dawn come and the light flood over the land and everything turned radiant at once, that word “good” so profoundly affirmed my soul that I am amazed I should be allowed to witness such a thing.
— from Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead
This view. Our reward for rising at five, finishing the daily chores, and donning our walking shoes before 6 a.m.
We biked again last Saturday and hope to return to the trail this weekend.
Although the city has not yet implemented watering restrictions, our part of the world is experiencing a severe drought. It may not be apparent on the trail, but in our neighborhood, lawns are dormant, lake and creek levels are low, and new plants are dying. According to our contractor, however, this is excellent house-painting weather, so there’s that. Between you and me? I’m willing to wager that if not the snap of burlap stretched over the ornamentals then the slap of primer on the siding will be the magic rainstick that shakes some precipitation from the sky next week.
■ Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (J.K. Rowling; 2005. Fiction.) Perhaps I was a bit harsh when writing about my HP reread last year, “[T]he flaws have become too big to hide under a long sweater of sentiment. They’re just not particularly well-stitched, are they?” This from a woman who has (speaking of sweaters), year in and year out, from the first cool-enough morning in October until the first too-warm morning in April, donned the same tatty, misshapen gray bundle of yarn with sleeves to take her first cup of coffee. Well-stitched or not, both the stories and my ugly old sweater comfort me. And that’s not a bad thing. No, not at all.
■ The Goshawk (T.H. White; 1951. Non-fiction.) p. 23 It has never been easy to learn life from books.
p. 38 Here comes (one thought, suddenly catching oneself out) that excellent piece of work called man, with his capacity for looking before and after, his abilities to reflect upon the enigmas of philosophy, and the minted storehouse of an education that had cost between two and three thousand pounds, walking sideways to a tied bird, with his hand held out in front of him, looking the other way and meowing like a cat.
To the list “Things I did when I wasn’t reading this weekend,” add “Biking.” With the ghosts of two memorable spills in mind, we stuck to walks and the exercise bike last year to avoid the ER and urgent care during the pandemic. Today’s, then, was our first ride in twenty months.
Since my last annotated list, I’ve read eight books for a year-to-date total of ninety-four. At the end of next month, I’ll sort out how this positions me to meet my goals.
Three graphic works:
■ Imagine Wanting Only This (Kristen Radtke; 2017. Graphic non-fiction.) ■ Drawn to Berlin: Comic Workshops in Refugee Shelters and Other Stories from a New Europe (Ali Fitzgerald; 2018. Graphic non-fiction.) ■ The Book Tour (Andi Watson; 2019. Graphic fiction.)
A gorgeous (and highly recommended) volume of poetry:
■ Stag’s Leap (Sharon Olds; 2012. Poetry.)
Two “vacation books”:
■ The Brutal Telling (Louise Penny; 2009. Fiction.) ■ The Last (Hanna Jameson; 2019. Fiction.)
The twentieth in my quest to reread all of Shakespeare’s plays:
■ Richard III (William Shakespeare; 1594. Drama.)
For the Cardiff BookTalk:
■ To the Lighthouse (Virginia Woolf; 1927. Fiction.) From Chapter XVII of “The Window”:
But what have I done with my life? thought Mrs. Ramsay, taking her place at the head of the table, and looking at the plates making white circles on it. “William, sit by me,” she said. “Lily,” she said, wearily, “over there.” They had that — Paul Rayley and Minta Doyle — she, only this — an infinitely long table and plates and knives. At the far end, was her husband, sitting down, all in a heap, frowning. What at? She did not know. She did not mind. She could not understand how she ever felt any emotion or affection for him. She had a sense of being past everything, through everything, out of everything, as she helped the soup, as if there were an eddy — there — and one could be in it, or one could be out of it, and she was out of it. It’s all come to an end, she thought, while they came in one after another, Charles Tansley — “Sit there, please,” she said — August Carmichael — and sat down. And meanwhile she waited, passively, for some one to answer her, for something to happen. But this is not a thing, she thought, ladling out soup, that one says.
From Chapter V of “The Lighthouse”:
And she wanted to say not one thing, but everything. Little words that broke up the thought and dismembered it said nothing. “About life, about death; about Mrs. Ramsay” — no, she thought, one could say nothing to nobody. The urgency of the moment always missed its mark. Words fluttered sideways and struck the object inches too low. Then one gave it up; then the idea sunk back again; then one became like most middle-aged people, cautious, furtive, with wrinkles between the eyes and a look of perpetual apprehension.