The Hillhouse

The Journey of a Mother and Son

Falling Fast October 7, 2014

The scenery starts to change in subtle ways at first, a slightly pinkish hue to a leaf here and there, an olive cast to a tree, maybe a highlight or two of yellow in a sea of green… In the beginning, especially when the weather isn’t always cool, and sometimes can be even a mite too warm – it seems a bit of a stretch to think that in relatively short order all the leaves will no longer be above our heads, but under our feet. It’s a rather massive transformation, and once it’s underway, it can be a little surprising to see how quickly the trees become November-bare.

This is the month when my parents chose to be married (on October 10th, in 1959), so that they might take advantage of autumn at its most colorful peak. Happily we’ve had a wonderful fall thus far in 2014, but I’m wondering if the leaves aren’t leaping to the ground more rapidly than in falls past on account of the lovely sunny, warm weather we’ve been having lately (save yesterday, when it rained; a personal gift from Nature to me, I’m fairly sure of it, as I was sick and needed a day to stay inside and sleep, guilt-free). Or does it work the other way ’round? Does a nippy fall encourage the leaves to leave? I dunno, it just seems to be happening quicker this year. Maybe everything just feels faster to me. Perhaps my age is having a greater effect than before on my experience of time. I’m reaching the autumn of my own life now, and I got here a lot sooner than I thought I would.

No matter, can’t be sad, nostalgic or backward-looking for long. I need to be fully present for this gorgeous time of year. I need to fully savor the scents, linger over the ambers and golds and bright blue skies. It’s a heady, sensual time – very much like spring in many ways, I think. One can smell the earth again in a renewed way, one can just sense the moisture clinging to the rocks and trees, and in spite of the sun’s warmth, there’s a sobering, cool edge to it all which has you digging out your light jackets and sweaters again. For me, this time of year is the most dream-like of all the seasons. The countryside has a mystical feel to it. Scents hang heavily in the air; wet, moldering leaves, browning roadside thickets and still-thriving mosses, fields shrouded in mist… I’m enjoying the feeling all I can, because before long, autumn itself will have fallen away like the leaves.

Some images from our beautiful property here on the hill…

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Here’s a past post about October, which includes a poem I highly recommend everyone read this time of year…

…and here’s last year’s post recognizing my parent’s 54th wedding anniversary. This year will be mom’s first without dad.

 

 

Peepers Piping April 9, 2013

Small signs of spring are beginning to appear in Greenfield these days; robins on the lawn, small patches of green along the roadside, and the very breeze itself now smells different… fresh, warm and clean…. and full of that sort of hope that really only comes with the promise of Spring. And last night, another important resident returned to confirm for us that winter was over. We even saw them with our own eyes as we drove back from the airport; they were crossing the road in the blackness as a light rain fell, coaxing them to move once again. When we got home and got out of the car, there they were. Only twenty four hours before, the night air had been completely silent, but tonight the neighborhood peepers in the swamp at the bottom of our hill had begun their chorus. Just like that. Absent one day, present the next. It’s a constant, high-pitched trilling sound, almost like a flock of chirping birds or maybe like a swarm of crickets… (I can remember some warm Spring nights in past years even being a little annoyed by them for their relentless performance!) The return of the peepers is to us as exciting and life-affirming as the return of the woodcock in the field just beyond our house. Irrefutable evidence that nature does continue to exist, in spite of the evidence being so hard to witness in our black-topped, fast-paced, I-padded world.

Torpor. What a word, huh? What a process, too. That’s the term for the kind of hybernation the little frogs in the swamp go through each winter. (Hummingbirds go into torpor each night.) The frogs hunker down into the mud and their metabolism, heart rate and body temperature drop to amazingly low rates. This is incredibly hard to get – I myself find my mind blown each and every Spring with the return of all sorts of creatures. In the middle of winter, the ground covered in white, I scan the landscape trying to imagine the thousands upon thousands of tiny creatures in just such a state, only inches from the surface. Alive, but somehow dead as well. It’s hard to wrap one’s brain around. And so very astounding when you see it in action. No bugs, then lots of bugs. No frogs, then, well, thousands of em. And all at once. I can hardly fathom it.

O thank you little peepers for adding yet another dimension to the changing of seasons. Your songs echo throughout the hilly woods and give us some reassurance that things are as they should be.