By Pattiann Rogers
After autumn and the casting-off,
leaves and leaves and leaves—oak,
hickory, sassafras, hazel—they cover
the ground everywhere, looking
like hands lying open in half-fists,
old hands lying still and open,
a congregation unaware of rainwater
gathering in their cups, burls
and knots and bared veins the most
prominent of their aspects.
Sometimes they appear to be
the fallen body-husks of flocks
of birds struck down by storm
or famine, sometimes the gutted
remains of field mice and voles
left desiccated after drought.
Whether blown or stilled, they have
the skeletal nature of skins shed
by many snakes, the piled shells
of plagues of locusts.
But they are always only
themselves. And in the spring,
I believe the leaves coming
are the very same autumn leaves
of before, not ghosts of themselves
in new bodies but the very same
leaves restored and resurrected;
as if those fallen birds had shuddered
once and joined again in flight;
the shrunken mice, the empty
voles had risen, fat once more
and ebullient; as if the old hands
had held and lifted to a sign
language of their own. Like space
and time at the edge of the event
horizon, this is an involution
of virtue given to being.
It’s no wonder then that leaves
can sing all summer long, even while
knowing for certain and remembering
the waiting winter ahead.
We're in a hotel in Indiana waiting for the kids to fall asleep so I have five minutes. We left Potomac yesterday around 2 p.m. after a hectic morning -- I had stitches in my throat from last week removed, but my doctor didn't have the biopsy results yet, which means having to worry about it on vacation -- given the family propensity for melanoma, not something I'm happy about and we're out of cell phone range quite a bit driving through hills and such. We stayed last night at a lakeside campground outside of Madison, Pennsylvania (sort of near Pittsburgh), beautifully wooded so despite being relatively full, we had plenty of private space as we were in a cabin surrounded by trees. (I don't do tents on trips this long; the likelihood of mildew is too great.) We took the kids swimming, then made hot dogs and s'mores over the fire once the sun had gone down and the 90 degree heat dropped into the 70s. It rained overnight, so the temperature was nice and cool when we woke. There were rabbits in many of the open spaces and blueberries growing by the lake.
After I took the kids to the playground while Paul loaded the car, we drove through the tip of West Virginia into Ohio, where we had lunch at a rest stop built on Native American burial grounds that were being excavated by a local archaeological group, which was sort of neat but rather disturbing -- who's the genius that failed to realize this when planning the rest area? Then we headed to Terre Haute, Indiana, where I met my friend Deborah who had driven in from Bloomington. We went out for Chinese buffet (the kids' choice) and hung out comparing notes on our last trips; I had brought her stuff from England, she had brought me stuff from IU. This is the friend who did most of the artwork on my web pages, including all the Janeways and the Boromir on the story index page -- now I have the original.
On a related note, I bought USA Today to read about the Supreme Court decision -- bad as McPaper is, it had a less prejudicial headline than the local Ohio paper -- and found the new Aragorn poster in the Life section. Niiiice. Tomorrow we are driving to Paul's cousin's house in Springfield, MO, where he is the GM of a minor league baseball team, the Ozark Mountain Ducks (??!!) We haven't seen them since Paul's youngest brother's wedding in 1998, so it will be great for the kids to see those cousins -- apparently everyone is into Yu-Gi-Oh. *g* From there we are headed to Oklahoma, where we're camping, and Albuquerque, so I am not sure when I will be back online.