Yesterday and the day before were remarkably balmy with generous amounts of sun. But last night the wind ticked around to the north and today we woke to a blanket of low, gray clouds covering the sky and steady cold gusts making the branches rustle and the leaves fly. It now looks and feels like late fall. I put on my parka, hat and gloves before heading down to the lake to see what changes were taking place there.
At first glance, I mistook a pair of diving ducks for loons still not departed from their summer breeding grounds, but it did not take long to realize that these ducks were much smaller than loons—two buffleheads on their migratory journey from the taiga of central Canada probably to some ice-free spots with good foraging prospects on the coast. I was glad to have them with us but knew they could not stay long.
Blood red in the oaks—
beneath cold skies two buffleheads
dive and dive and dive.
It is mid-October and we are in the steep stretch of the annual descent towards the winter solstice; every day is noticeably shorter than the last. I don’t like seeing the sun depart and I suspect most folks in Maine share that feeling. But at the same time the light we do have—the clear light of fall—is exceptional, contrasting with the increased depth of the shadows.
With the decrease in length of day, the trees reveal a brilliance previously masked by summers’ green hunger to grow.
As the light departs,
gold needles on black waters,
red leaves in the firs
We humans tend not to know much about fungi although they are around us everywhere. Mycologists estimate that there are perhaps five million fungal species in existence. Of these, we have identified just close to 100,000.
That is a lot of unobserved life! For most of us, even the identified species of fungi are mostly unfamiliar. It is a knowledge deficit not easily overcome.
But come September the fungal life unknown and unseen throughout the year in the soil, leaf litter, and dead trees scattered through the woods, suddenly becomes manifest, or at least a small expression of it does. These are the mushrooms, the fruiting bodies of the mycelial networks that thread their way through and around the roots of trees, leaf mold and rotting wood. Each September I try to go out every day to poke around in the nearby woods, to see what has come up.
Discs, cups, caps, gills, pores
sprung where nothing was before—
cool September woods.
Mushrooms and the trees—
of their long conversation
we hear but a word.
The first week of September didn’t feel like September at all. The air was from the south, hot and muggy; it was summery in the uncomfortable sense of the word, a reminder that we are living in the Anthropocene.
It was with a sense of relief a few mornings ago that I woke up to find cool, fresh air pouring in through the open bedroom window. Overnight, the season had shifted from high summer to early fall, Maine style. While not letting me off the hook in terms of my responsibilities as a human being, the change felt good.
True September’s here!
Step through damp woods, coolness, mist
into one, still mind.
We are late into August and the days are noticeably shorter. The sun goes down and twilight sets in while we are eating dinner. And our sun-downer dinners can be enjoyed outside; we’ve been warmed by a wind from the south, making things seem almost tropical. The trees are still in full leaf, the summer birds remain, and the peepers—while quiet—appear on the lit windows in the evening to catch insects. Life is abundant in the growing dark.
Sunset before moonrise—
crickets chorus, trees exhale
air as warm as breath.
The moon last night was two days off the full and rose behind the pines about two hours after I took this photo.
July is summer’s sweet spot, a long, slow time still graced by generous amounts of daylight, but without the sense of biological urgency—the race to germinate, grow, breed, claim territory, etc.—that comes with the approach to the solstice. In mid-July the blackflies have long since ceased to bite, most of the summer resident birds seem to have fledged their broods, every young chipmunk (and there are lots this year!) has its den and range established, each ash, maple, or oak in the woods is quietly synthesizing with nothing raining down from their high branches.
In May and early June, when I was planting my small vegetable garden I encountered eager field bindweed shoots (Convolvulus arvensis) at every turn. As soon as I spotted one of these pesky shoots that, left alone, would become a choking vine with toxic leaves wrapped around basil or green beans or lettuce, I would pull it out. But more would come.
Now, in mid-summer even the bindweed has ceased to send out new shoots and its white trumpet flowers are drawing in pollinators. I know I should eradicate the bindweed, and I do plan to do that…sometime, but for now we have a truce.
Summer’s reign of peace—
plants condemned as weeds in June
now seem beautiful.
Mosses, which love water, have structural features in their leaves that allow them to channel moisture downward and inward and hold it for awhile in the densest part of their growth. Even in the fairly dry weather we’ve been having, most of the mossy places in the yard and woods still look surprisingly green and fresh.
I wonder if humans in the long course of our coming into being as a species, did not have a few forebearers—mites, spiders, or tardigrades—that were inhabitants of the mossy biome. There is something familiar and beckoning about the green spaces moss creates.
World we somehow know—
hidden homes in cool moss glens,
welcome shade of fern.