Tag Archives: seasons

The Many Small Details

 

The seasons change in an alchemist’s patois – using a language that is rich in subtleties and mystery.  It is a sum of transmutations that have been distilled in an earthly alembic ever since the world spun itself into existence.

The change is as delicate yet invasive as a drop of paint falling into a bowl of water, spreading in a fading bouquet of coils and tendrils.  The cusp between seasons is a time of winsome details, tiny births and hushed deaths.  There is an anthology of detail to regale one of what is to come, a silent speech of promises to be fulfilled once the threshold is crossed.  This new dialogue, rough and poignant, contains a revelation of detail that curves into being every three months.  It begins with a change as delicate as twilight dripping into dawn, as elusive as the stars twisting into a new formation.

It is on a periphery, a borderland familiar yet altered, a soft and gradual rift.  If one is clever enough to look and see, to gather together the many small details like a bouquet the change does not go ignored and Nature’s herculean sweat will not be wasted.  Nor will go unheeded the four conversions of the year: fraught with as much magic as a forgotten chemist’s lab, hung with colored glass, philosophies and saucers of bubbling gold.

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Poems for Autumn

Most decidedly, this is a most un-autumn like season. Eighty-five degrees today, what an insult. So, to make myself feel better, I have two autumn poems.

A Twisting Almanac

Like a charcoal colored sea
The night rippled with cold
And I felt on its muscular currents
An unseen armada
Harbingers of the harvest
Of fields bowed to the scythe’s curve
Of twilight’s claws drawn across noontime’s skin
And the equinox arched like a cat across the sky

The wind worried the trees
And from its feral grip
Fell a crisp rain of jagged leaves
That coiled in the wind
And then rose in a helix
Tracing their autumnal DNA,
The cycle of kaleidoscope seasons,
To the distant spark that kindled their beginnings

Fruitful Debris

A broken mosaic
Confused as a shattered puzzle
A pink and cherry bower
That crumbled and nibbled at my feet
Crisp and familiar
Like a cat
My shoes stirred
Beneath the brittle fabric
They pushed at the jagged facets
Of the harvest colored prism
The withered reminders
Of nature’s insistence
That her beauty survives
Even when death
And the photosynthetic drought
Wreaths the ground
With its bloodless garlands

Image result for falling leaves fashion illustrations - vogue - 1920's

 

On Holiday

“Let us speak of the revels which are accustomed to be made on St. John’s Eve…”

– the monk of Winchcomb, 13th century

During the summer, the sky swerves and tilts on a new axis. It slides on its equinox like a child sliding down a stairway banister. Summer Solstice, bronzed as any sunbather, lingers high overhead, lingering in Cancer’s Tropic. The shadows of St. John’s Eve leach into the stones of Stonehenge and then are cast across the grasslands of Wiltshire. The stories and thoughts of the prehistoric builders are revealed – but no one has yet been able to read them.

At twilight, the whimsical sky is crowded with revelers. Constellations, long absent from the carnival stage, begin to arrive. A menagerie of holiday visitors – eagles (Aquila), swans (Cygnus), foxes (Vulpecula), horses with starry wingspans (Pegasus) dance an orbit to an astral harp (Lyra). The trace work of their steps pierces the indigo fabric in a metallic frost.

The astrological wheel turns along the summer ecliptics and celestial equators. When it stops, Sagittarius the centaur is rearing against the sky, pocked with nebulae and stars, shouldering his quiver of arrows. Scorpius, bright with novas and poison, waits. Libra, outlined with a distant harvest of blue, orange and red stars, prepares to carry its scales of justice and good behavior during the liveliest of seasons.

Sunsets are very gala. They are the color of sweet cocktails – honey and Benedictine, sangria with plums and nectarines, champagne and peach. They are warm and melting – coating the horizon with an invitation to an evening of celebrations.

During the carnival evenings, planets are eager to crowd into the sky. If the moon is curved into a crescent, they hang from her geometric grace like jewels. If the moon is full, wearing her summer colors – Strawberry, Rose or Red – she casts a cherry-colored cloak across her new neighbors. Mars and Saturn ride lowest on the horizon, drinking in the last of the sunset’s sugared alchemy. But Jupiter is bold and bright, sailing like a radiant ship towards the moon’s blushing presence.

When summer’s hot allure is exhausted, the sky revolves once more to reveal unfamiliar populations and landscapes that bend over a ripe solstice, a golden equinox heavy with crops. Constellations float in the thin, cold air: dolphins (Delphinus), fish (Pisces), whales (Cetus) swim in oceans kept full by the Aquarian water bearer. The full moon dons her working garb: Harvest, Hunter’s.

Breezes as chilly as lace curl like a fichu across the diamante bosom of the modest sky. They kick up gusts of meteors and shooting stars: the Orionids, the Taurids, The Leonids – even the final sweep of the Perseid meteor shower.

Stars that did not take these giddy rides are left behind, glittering and lonely in the cinnamon sky. They are scattered like the ribbons and furbelows of the departed revelers’ indulgences. They were the madcap reminders that tickled the crooked backs of the workers in the fields, the residues of warmth that whispered of the pleasures they had missed.

Sanctum Sanctorum

The corner of Los Angeles where I live in is a muscular one, rippling with cars and businesses. This is a common enough observation for most city-dwellers, nothing to see here, really.

I can take a walk and come across a handful of trees, or a garden the size of a thimble trying to jump onto the changing of seasons as one would jump onto a carousel already in motion. Sometimes a spring-time bird dares me to come closer, cocking its head in a petite threat. Sometimes in the morning I will see a veil of spider webs embroidered with crystals of dew…and I often wonder if I would be able to see my microscopic image in those minute prisms.

But these are stray images – out of place, like a homeless animal.

If I had the whim to regale myself in the concentrated greenery of a park, I would need to widen the vistas of my walk. My neighborhood does not possess those shrouded acreages, soft with unpaved roads and the secluded air rich with the scent of earth. In these shadowy climates, the sun is given only brief visitation rights, waiting outside for admission.

But I do have a park, and it is a little over a mile away.

It has a unique location, an organic layer that floats above slow currents of antediluvian tar. Its progress is made even more laborious by the detached bones and fossilized bodies that block its circulation. There are even places where the tar erupts through the living crust in black, oily lakes streaked with tarnished rainbows.

The park itself is sparse and manicured, its scattered trees frail with small leaves breathing through arid veins. The grass is pounded flat by dogs and children on field-trips: both off the leash. On the outskirts of the park there are flimsy bowers with blossoms the color of summer heat, flowering in thirsty pastels. They are grown from the seeds of their primordial ancestors. Seismic eons ago their elders blanketed the streets, the sidewalks, my neighborhood in unimagined numbers, billowing like earth-bound clouds.

All trees in the park are isolated, growing independent and impartial. I sometimes come away with the impression that I could shatter them into twigs with my bare hands. However, there is one section of the park – small, barely the smallest fraction of an acre. Enclosed within this space is a diminutive grove of trees; only a handful, but they stand close to each other like the Three Graces, with their arms around each other’s waists.

The air in this copse is dense and verdant, smelling sweetly of freshly turned soil. The ground is crisp with leaves; the darkness is from another season, a perpetually lurking sunset. It is a view to see breathe in as well as to see.

The last time I looked into this comforting landscape, I realized that I was not alone. The leaves were restless and crackling with undecided, frenetic movements. I peered closer and saw that the inhabitant was a squirrel. Something important had been misplaced – something edible, clearly, judging from the hectic, chaotic movements most often associated with the loss of a harvest.

Only once did it stop – to stare directly at me, as if daring me to invade its sanctum sanctorum.

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But I respected its audacity, and stayed where I was. I was content to play the role of spectator although I knew, as I’m sure my squirrel acquaintance did, that this would be the closest to the forest I coveted that I would ever get.

Autumn Is Beckoning

I think autumn is beckoning.  I can see its witchy fingers lengthening, the dark and daring shades.  They leave shadowy scars across summer’s honey-colored skin and I welcome that fleshy damage.  It is a stinging reminder that soon it will be time to leave.  It was a heady three months, but the equinox of bronze harvests is coming and the dog days of August must now slip back into their collars.

Cats, which for weeks lay like silk carpets of muscle and bone on baking sidewalks, became emboldened by the muzzled days.  They basked like soft icons in the long afternoons; in shadows stretching like Nosferatu, they clenched their eyes and listened for the onset of the hunting season.

I too listened for the harvest-colored season – the fields and orchards in the sky.  I smelled the wheat, the cherries, and the corn that rejoiced above my head.  I heard the hunter’s moon rise through their rustling acres.  And I so wished I could taste the atmospheric bounty that ripened above me.

harvest

It’s possible that I soon will.  When the days are no longer heavy; steaming under a layer of captured heat and moisture – a boiling, constricted mist.  When the nights are clear and the planets glitter like sequins in a diamante veil.   And the moon, swathed in her stark and chilly shroud will roam at will, dressed for the harvest, bearing her starry scythe.

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But there is some waiting to be done.  Still, occasionally, a cold and sly wind will slip through the dense weather.   Or I will see a leaf or two – tinted with ginger or caramel – at my feet.  It isn’t much.

But it is enough for me to know.

That autumn is beckoning.

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Spring’s Ahead

In Palos Verdes, the cliffs overlook the assortment of beaches and coves like a weaving terrace of basalt and shale, layered with skeletons – the
strata of prehistory.

Climbing out of those towering deserts are bushes and trees.  Dry, salt-ridden and barbed, they harbor living creatures above the ocean, for all their inhospitality.

Not long ago I was watching the sea, standing by the cliffs, when I heard a bird singing close by.  It was balanced on a gorse bush; singing with such passion, with such blithe intensity that it didn’t notice how close I really was.  I was near enough to see the muscles of its throat fluttering, to see the small, sharp beak open to release the notes into the air.  I was able to visualize the music, tiny filigrees and arabesques twisting in an invisible fabric:  lilting and lowering, as the bird saw fit, to suit the musicale its joyous blood would dictate.

In the city, where I live, I have been hearing music too.  Pale and plaintive, it rises with the morning, a lavender echo of breaking clouds and a sunrise swathed in watercolor.  A mourning dove – always alone – rests on a telephone wire, its sadness filling the air.  All I see is the dark silhouette, but I know well the prism of its feathers:  mauve, grey and lilac:  the accepted dress colors for Victorian ladies in half-mourning.  Though there is only one, its mate is undoubtedly nearby.  Whether they are collecting materials for their nest, or scouting for new real estate, their impatient DNA urges them on.

Spring is coming.

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Forever Amber

Throughout the temperate climates there are trees that hold on to their spring and summer greens throughout the later, demanding months.  They wear them as stubbornly and foolishly as one who wears a favorite coat in July or refuses to take an umbrella into the rain.  They live their evergreen lives eternally, proud of their verdant blood and the succulent life that will not blink in the face of the shifting seasons.

But there are some trees that pay attention:  to the altering temperatures, to the shadows that lengthen before noon, to the greedy night – Nature’s subtle hints that it is time to change.   Their leaves become melting prisms, with colors that undulate and flow:  creating microcosms of sunsets within a dying morphology.  Garnet, ginger, bronze and scarlet, they are as pure and fluid as the stained colors in cathedral glass.  The tints of Chartres, Notre Dame, Cologne are reflected in their autumnal DNA.   The air is bright with their departure; the earth and streets are crisp with the trees’ brittle sacrifices.

In the mid-17th century, Spanish naturalists stumbling through the Americas took note of a pretty tree with leafs shaped like clipped stars and a clear, perfumed gum that looked like liquid amber.

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350 years later their happy discovery is alive still, in backyards and cities, celebrating the cyclical weather, the migratory temperatures.

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Liquidambar styraciflua is known for its fluid colors and fragrant liquor.  It bleeds a clear or tinted resin reminiscent of the musky scent of burning amber.  This aromatic hemorrhage is what gives the tree its name.

The Amber’s round seed pods create sheet-music when superimposed against telephone lines.  Its roots are discreet.  Sidewalks do not buckle or erupt into mountain ranges that wait for pedestrians to stumble over, like unsuspecting gods.

It is used for decoration; above succulents and firs, cedar, oak and spruce its colors wink with whimsical flamboyance.  During the summer its canopy is lush with green youth.  By year’s end breezes rustle the crisp leaves like a mother running her fingers through her child’s tousled hair.

It drinks from the subterranean rivers that tumble through the earth in a web of fertile tributaries.  The green elixir permeates the body of the tree, creating an ornament that glories in the year and celebrates the four changing quarters.  It is a reminder of the comfort of change; the knowledge that beauty does not end but renews itself in perpetual rebirths:  that it lasts forever.

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Flowers

Pretty little flowers, their heads tilted in the breeze, sing with spring’s lullaby blossoming in their hearts like a pastel-colored garden.  Their tiny voices, as light and fluid as a bird’s, fly into the balconies of the Theater du Chatelet and disappear – perching alongside other songs that have melted into the distant, singing air.

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Innocent lips, curved and painted, welcome but will not seduce.  They are not full of the threat of a more heated season.  Instead, they are a coy promise of the brilliance that trembles and a joy that hides.  It is only at the very edge of their smiles, coiling sweetly upwards, that vulnerability and danger wait.

Thick coils of hair, twisted and singed with curling tongs, flow across their shoulders, languid and soft.   Teased and pulled to Gibson Girl heights, the tresses then gently collapse beneath the weight of ornament and millinery into a froth of curls that tickle eyebrows and shroud eyes.

Dainty ankles are poised above footlights.  Arms show dimpled and white beneath sleeves that ebb and flow with each movement, like veils of pastel oceans.  Hands arch and change – eyes glitter, reflecting candles hoisted into the air, the diamonds scattered throughout the audience, the images in the glass paneling.

But their storytelling was unskilled; and they used their bodies – with all of the flesh’s eloquent potential – with a blunt girlishness.  They fulfilled the Edwardian feminine ideal of decoration and foolishness, and danced with tiny, curling steps, before pausing, yielding flowers, ready to subside into their lovers’ bouquets.

 

A Heated Argument

When I was walking home, I felt the microcosm of summer, a bauble gleaming like a bronzed sunset, land on my shoulder.  This gleaming toy began to whisper to me, telling me its secrets, its axis of seasons, its golden solstice.

I listened to its confidences.  It took pride in its air, where molecules were jostled and pushed into a thick equation of stillness and warmth.  It explained that throughout its turgid currents there ran a glistening drift of coolness, a cold metallic blessing woven into its heated tapestry.   It was a promise that autumn would always lurk in its sky like mercury reflecting behind a mirror…and that perhaps I should be patient.

The Windblown Time

The summer flowers have lost their innocence, their fresh chlorophyll drying to a standstill within green, clogged veins.  Their scent is a final gasp, rather than a graceful birth…their colors are garish, beyond their prime and on the brink of death.  Yet the affable season continued the discussion, making sure I was aware that the flowers’ slow liqueur only reached their pinnacle during the summer months.

The Overwhelming Air

I was aware of this.

During this heated time birds either migrate to cooler climates or rest in the trees in a stunned silence.  There was a time when the leaves would jump with mystery as their unknown occupants clutched at branches and fluttered with vexation.  Quorums of sparrows disputed, mockingbirds hissed and battled…but not during summer.  The shorebirds I loved – whimbrels and godwits carving the sand with sabre-like beaks,

Swords in Sync

sanderlings darting across the beach in packs of tiny earth-bound clouds…gone for the summer.  The heated breath in my ear explained that perhaps other regions should enjoy these birds’ song and flight illustrating the blank air.  Perhaps they should get the chance to read the tiny footprints in the sand; the dainty, flickering hieroglyphs.  Perhaps.

A summer sky during the day is bland and soft:  an expressionless face, without texture or wrinkle.  It is a vacuous hothouse, heated by a single star that tears a white corner out of the sky.  The summer night, however, burns with stars.

The Scalded Sky

Constellations – Scorpio, Hercules – and triangles made from Vega, Deneb and Altair – bloom out of the horizon like jeweled gardens.  There now, I heard the triumphant reasoning in my ear – isn’t that pretty?  But I prefer the harvest moon, the wolf moon,

The Moon Sails in Arcs

The Moon Sails in Arcs

its scythe and jaws fierce and penetrating through the cold twilight and swirling Delft-colored clouds.

By now, summer’s heated argument was weighing heavily on my shoulder.  Its points of debate were gallant, but I was having none of it.  I twitched my shoulder, and the golden bauble stumbled onto the sidewalk, shattering into a thousand prisms – its final bewitching challenges.  But I stepped over this wasteland of regret and continued walking and waiting.

A Star Is Born

When the year is almost half over, the air begins to thicken.  It congeals with heat and turns gold and silver with a sultry alchemy.  The chemicals of summer mix in the sky and forge the sun, which, like Damocles’ sword, hangs above the earth – threatening it with the power of an angry season.

Religions have devils and demons.  They have their own scarlet visions of Satan; the bizarre pride of a displaced angel.  But before there was religion, when priests chanted in forests, when icons were splattered with blood, when temples were built on a population of bones – the sun was revered.  People cowered in the night waiting for its return:  a displaced star that burned away its twilight home.

The stories of Satan’s banishment are myriad; lessons of arrogance falling from the sky on rivers of black flames.  Coated in waves of plasma, the sun’s bold heat covers the sky as it travels across the rim of the day, its audacious creation.  Perhaps it must be punished too:  for extinctions, climate change, droughts…when its bulky orbit ran roughshod over the planets that hung in the Milky Way like fruit.  And that must be why it is impossible to view the sun without pain.  It is a star that chose to explode with heat in a solitary show of conceit, yet because of that strength, no one will ever look upon the sun’s face.  All admiration is forsaken.

But life must grow.  It needs light to encourage blossoms and blood, to warm the flesh and stir the heart.  It needs the prisms and molecules that curl in the atmosphere to create an anatomy of radiance.  It needs the giant, impudent star glowing in the opaque embers of the galaxy to define the seasons; to nourish the year.  

Appearing on the horizon every twenty-four hours in a bloody, fearsome birth, the sun is the font of all existence, but also a source of blinding pride.  It can feed and cloak worlds in a seamless band of light.  But it can also lay them to waste, leaving continents behind like blackened corpses.

What will it do next?  The sun is inescapable, but at the same time is unknowable.  And it hides its motives behind a wink of its gilded eye.

Embroidered by Mother

Suns Spotted