Friday, November 27, 2009

The mountains versus the ocean

Just gonna need to this: Facebook is killing my blogging but I am again resolved not to let that happen.

I'm really noticing the changing of the seasons here, in a distinct, sharp way that I didn't notice in Brooklyn. All fall the song "When Fall Comes to New England," by Cheryl Wheeler, kept coming into my brain. I felt it getting colder, grayer, the leaves turning, my gratitude rising -- I'm so happy for the trees, but not just any trees, the glorious red of maples, and the deep yellow of what, beech? The Japanese maple outside our front door was incredible in its vibrant, almost glowing red. The air, the colors, the texture, the sky, the clouds, it all makes me feel more connected, more alive, more grounded.

Now fall is ending and we are moving into winter. The CSA is done, the leaves have all fallen, and been raked. (I really noticed them lining the sides of our street this year, ankle deep, for several weeks. We kept raking them but the leaves kept falling. We wondered when our neighbors were going to rake them up. Finally about 10 days ago the leaf blowers were out in force in the yards and street in front of their houses. Within two days they were all gone, forcing me to get out there too and finishing the last of ours. Aha, I thought, raking leaves isn't like snow, you don't have to get out there and start raking the minute it stops. The leaves will stop falling eventually, and that's when you rake. On the other hand, there's so many leaves it's very hard to do by hand if you are doing it all at once.)

Now my world looks much more like winter, with naked trees and everything brown and fading. The temperatures are in the forties and fifties, though, which makes me feel slightly uncomfortable: Shouldn't it be colder by now? Will this be another warm winter? Winter without the mercury dropping to at least the teens and twenties for much of the time doesn't seem like winter. I mean, the snow, being able to snowshoe and ski and just enjoy it is what makes the winter bearable. Still, I have removed all the screens from the windows, in anticipation of colder weather (keeps the house warmer) and brought out the bird feeder and hung it outside our bedroom window, well out of reach, I trust, from any errant bears.

It's funny, I don't see raking leaves or stacking wood or even shoveling snow as chores any more. It's not like vacuuming -- or worse, dusting -- relentless and dull. It's more like, I like to live here because I get to rake and stack and shovel. Granted, Dave does a lot more of all that then I do. Still, I wouldn't give those rituals up for anything -- and I do all the vacuuming, so maybe we're even.

I am continually struck by how much I notice nature here. I've said this before, but it still hits me that I moved here with some vague idea of being closer to "nature" and how the idea of that has changed and deepened and strengthened. A book I know says that every human has the notion of finding God within herself, an urge to find God, whatever that word means to her. I suspect I can add "nature" to that; I have a hunch that we all crave connection with the earth, trees, sky, water. It's taken me some time, and I've had to learn how to do that, how to get close to nature, whatever that is. But I can feel it happening.

Along those lines, a friend said recently, "I think people are drawn to either the ocean or the mountains. I love the mountains," she said, "but I can't live without the ocean." I knew what she meant and as she spoke, realized I am a mountain person. I love love love the ocean, especially the sounds of the waves and the rich odors of the salty air and sea life. But it's too big for me, too open, too massive. I find the ocean unapproachable, in some sense; I can't immerse myself in it, I can only dip my toe into it, walk along its edges, enjoy it from a distance or with the help of others, like last summer when Kim and family took Lily and I on their boat to Fire Island. I'm a strong swimmer and I used to be a good sailor, but I feel like at this point in my life the stakes are too high for me to be on or in the ocean more than I do. Maybe I'd feel differently if I lived near it.

Now the mountains, on the other hand, are much more accessible to me. I see the ocean and I don't think Atlantic, I think, 70 percent of the earth. I see Mount Sugarloaf or Skinner or Tom or even the hills to the northwest of here, the foothills of the Berkshires and the Greens, whose names I don't know that just roll one after the other, rather than stand up showing off like the first three, and I don't think, Appalachian range (I'm a bit embarrassed about my ignorance but until someone told me this summer I had no idea that the Appalachian mountain range stretched from Alabama to Canada). I think, I want to go there!

I long to get to the top and look out. I need to be among those trees and smell the leaves and muck and occasional skunk or fox. I like the closeness of the forest, the way the trees grow, each one different, different shapes, positions, in different stages of life, all except the dead and dying growing toward the light, although even those have little green shoots of life sprouting out toward the sun. Everything wants to live. Everything wants light. Walking in the woods makes me feel alive and like I could live forever, and with my little sprout, I will. Being in the woods makes me feel closer to God.

We had two Thanksgivings this year, one last weekend, with Dave's sweet family on Long Island, and one yesterday with my friend Blair and family. Blair's my oldest, dearest friend from high school and it's a trip -- and an honor -- to sharing in this life journey with her. Our kids were pouring over our high school year book yesterday afternoon, looking for pictures of us. Never in my wildest dreams . . .

Yesterday, while the free-range local turkey roasted, the adults snatched a couple of hours and walked to the bird blind and the lake and even over to the pasture, and that on top of another long walk earlier and five hours of sleep the night before really wore me out. And we still had dinner to make and eat and clean up after and pies to cook and dessert to serve and games to play. (Our friends Peggy and Mary and their families came over for dessert and made it feel like a real party and even more festive.)

But Blair and David have such good energy and such good spirits, that by the end of the evening I felt like I had reclaimed the holiday, in a sense. I could enjoy the day with good food and conversation and even though I was exhausted, I wasn't stressed. It just happened, seamlessly, and with great joy. Sometimes I get so caught up in the family stuff I can't see the forest for the trees, if you will. So yesterday I was reminded that we are all just growing toward the light, each in our own way. I've a lot to be thankful for this day.

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