HomeNature JournalAutumn Reverie

Still Waters of the South Toe River

The clouds are thin and frayed this morning but the Sun will not burn them away. They will thicken and tease us with erratic showers, but that is all. There will be no significant rain, and as such, the beaver dam, object of my curiosity now for weeks, is not in danger of being swept away. It remains, finely constructed across the width of the river, a comma in the flow of the river’s language.

Last night we went on a night walk. It is a favorite activity, one that nevertheless can be difficult to accomplish. It feels slightly radical, to walk on a rural road at night. Even the black cows at the top of the hill thought so. They seemed to not know what to make of me, coming closer to the fence, then shying away. I leaned against the fence and called softly to them in all kinds of languages: tongue clicks and soft words. Nothing seemed to entice them and so I became quiet, charmed by the calm of night. We startled together!—they in a sudden small thunder of hooves, and me yelping as I pushed away from the fencepost where I had been leaning in reverie. We do not know who startled who, but the spell was broken and we went our separate ways.

I saw that the forest has begun to empty. Even without any moonlight the landscape has taken on a quality of openness that is the hallmark of Winter. There was a charm to it, and an excitement stirred in me, a love of this view that is so entirely different, and undeniably more challenging, than the jungle shade of summer. The crowns of the trees were laid bare. Their trunks gleamed silver. The throat of the river was less muffled by leaf, brighter, more distinct.

Still Waters

I feel myself caught in this energetic shift, calm and reverent, especially this morning as I sit by the river. The slightest movement of air burnishes the surface of pond-on-the-river. There are even moments of smooth stillness. Then the autumnal breezes stir, first from the north, then from the south, and leaves fledge from their trees and make their first and only flight. Hordes of them land gently on the skin of the river and float steadily towards the beaver dam, where they crowd about the edge. It is a very calm and peaceful crowd. All the little leaves are meditating on their sublime existence, and the wonder of being a boat on a river when they have been so long a light-drinking leaf, part of a much greater body, the mother tree. They carry her with them wherever they go like a prayer, decomposing.

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