It’s been a gray several days until today; many inches of rain in the rain gauge, although we are lucky at our house. Last Wednesday, over seven inches of rain fell just to the north of us in a few hours. I drove home from the Edina library in that storm, muttering to myself, “Please don’t hail,” since I just got my car back from the body shop for hail damage repair. Lightning flickered constantly, like a bad light bulb, and Highway 100 had at least two spots where pooled water could have quickly turned dangerous. But I made it home, completely soaked from my 30-second dash to the car after the reading I attended, and felt grateful. To the south of us, floods are displacing many as rivers rise, spill over banks, meander into small towns and over highways. All this wetness feels like spring.
Yet here we are at the start of autumn. The birds are constantly emptying the bird feeders in our yard. The fruit on our crabapple tree has turned orange-red, its smaller crabapples irresistible to robins and migrating cedar waxwings. The waxwings have arrived right on schedule to gorge themselves in preparation for their long flight. The robins have been here all along, but they, too, must be getting ready to go. Our tree is a noisy, lofty restaurant. Sometimes, I watch this scene from our bedroom window just after I’ve opened the curtains and am entranced.
Through our kitchen window, there is a perfect view of our neighbor’s old apple tree which has been dead for years. He never cut it down, just trimmed the bulk of the top away. Its trunk and a few sturdy limbs remain. The dead tree has become a woodpecker neighborhood, with several perfectly round holes in desirable areas. The resident woodpeckers sometimes stop at our deck, check out the cedar planks, make our dogs lose their minds. They aren’t the only life to move to the dead tree. I recently noticed the lichen that has made patterns all over the old bark, as if a painter took a pallet knife and slathered on goops of oil paint that will not dry for years.
Soon the juncos will come through, too, on their migration. They are my favorites with their dark eyes and round white bellies. I love watching them hop around on the ground, their movements quick, lively.
When did I become this person who knows the seasons by the birds in the yard? Not that I mind. It’s far more soothing than this election season with its flood of campaign ads, far less bitter and polarizing than a candidates’ debate. Even though I was disappointed in my neighbor’s refusal to remove the dead tree, that is so minor compared to all the arguing over immigration, policing, race, religious differences, taxes, and rights. The thing about my neighbor’s tree is that it has had time to become a home for other creatures. Its demise is to the benefit of the woodpeckers and lichen and perhaps something else I haven’t noticed yet. I keep thinking there’s a lesson there. I keep wanting to draw a peaceful analogy, but am not sure there is one that would be of use in getting people to stop shouting.
Maybe the sun that has broken through today will relieve some of the floods to the south. Maybe we’ll see something that will lift our hearts a little before tonight’s debate between Clinton and Trump makes us feel like we’re drowning in reactionary verbosity. Maybe this soft light of autumn is good at illuminating hope.
Let’s leave the curtains open for that.
All photos by kcmickelson 2016.