National Emblem

b road walkJust before election day, Doug and I took a walk up the road to the bald eagles’ nest. A neighbor had told us the eagles were gone, but I was sure I’d heard them calling to each other, flying over the house. Since the river wasn’t frozen yet, we hoped if they weren’t at the nest we might get a sight of one fishing.

eagle wider view lookoutA windstorm had come through the previous night, causing strangely random damage. Leaves were barely disturbed in one spot, and most of a tree knocked down in another. The eagles’ tree was still standing tall, with its big knot of nest bulking at the top. We loitered for a few minutes while no eagle appeared, and then here he came – she came? – over our heads from the river behind us, talons carrying a huge clump of brushy sticks. She glided into the nest with it, disappearing from our sight. Repairs.

As a poet it’s true I see things in metaphor a lot, but I ask you – how could anyone not see this as an omen – a good omen? Our national symbol, on virtually the eve of election day, repairing the damage to her home?

eagle outlookThere was certainly a happy spring in my step as we walked the rest of the way up the road, turned, and walked back. When we came again to the eagles’ tree we looked up. There she was, sitting on the usual lookout branch, head turning slowly from side to side as she surveyed the river, the road, the town, the world. The nest was whole again. All would be well.

The Pull of Photographs

b leaflightFall has always been my favorite season, which was frustrating when I lived in California. We had fall from about Christmas to New Year’s (after that, spring). Now that I am in the gorgeous country of blazing maples, golden hickory, and the self-explanatory burning bush, my October cup runneth over.

b red tooSeized with desire not to lose all these beauties, I take their photographs. Over and over again, and then they are mine. Taken; captured; the words used for photographs imply that I’m not alone in this irrational feeling that the image is the thing.

f leavesBut what we possess in a photograph doesn’t come only from what’s physically in it. The colors and shading give the illusion of heft and contour, but a photo is a flat surface. The third dimension comes from us, from what we know about leaves and trees, and fill in –  just physically, not even counting the feelings we have about trees, about autumn, about color, about light, about darkness. Those come into it too.

f cloudsI take a photo of leaves on the ground, and I can feel my feet scuffling through heaps of them on trails and sidewalks.

I take a photo of a tree against a skyful of amazing clouds, and I think of my mother, and what she called a “buttermilk sky.”

b chairAnd this late afternoon sun speaks autumn strongly to me, because I know that three months ago the sun set on the righthand edge of this picture, far north of where it is setting now. It’s not just the color in the trees – summer’s heading south. Your particular associations may be different from mine, but you have them. That’s the part that’s the same.

Every fall I write about the leaves and most winters I cross most of it out. Here are two surviving bits.

b red mapleMaple: vermilion

Signs of the season,
lamps against grey skies,
flame to the blue,
they build into quick haystacks
on the ground.
The deep end of autumn,
leap in feet-first; it closes
over your head.

b gingkoGingko: cadmium yellow

Ancient tree, eons of
synchronized passion
make the leaves fall
all together when they fall,
a chorus line dancing
to the ground, one,
two, three, kick.