September 18th, 2002

caillebotte_man at his window

Almost Autumn

Few of the grasses in the fields now show any green at all. There, and along the verges of the roads, all the slender, waving stalks are brown and grey, and gold. The warm afternoons are filled with the scent of dried grass and pine needles and, in the brushy places, last autumn's leaf mold. By day, the sky is brushed with drifting white streaks of cirrus clouds. At dusk, the last waxing moon of summer is already high in the east. Later, its brightness pales the stars, and a warm wind flows down the ridge from the deserts east of the mountains. It sends the first fallen leaves skittering along the pavement, adding another voice to the night song of chirping crickets and whispering pines. The transition has begun.
caillebotte_man at his window

Wind All Day

The sound of aluminum ladders being shifted, laughter and whistling, and voices speaking Spanish were the first things I heard on awakening. The apples were being harvested from the orchard, which lies a bit over 200 feet from my window. Early that morning, I had listened to the sound of the irrigation sprinklers chattering away. Under the apple trees, the grass is green all summer. I lie in bed, thinking about the heads popping up into the sunlight at the tops of the ladders, the apples being plucked from the branches and dropped down into the baskets in the grassy shade. I didn't get up early enough to see. By the time I got there, all the trees along the edge of the orchard were picked clean, and the voices came from somewhere deeper in the shadowed rows, my view blocked by the thick growth of young pine trees which lines most of the orchard fence. But, this is a pleasant day for picking fruit.

High pressure over the Modoc Plateau is sending the hot, dry wind down into the valley. The gusts have been strong here, and I can imagine what it is like in the canyons. How I wish I could get down there to see the ponderosas bending and the water whipped up! But here, I saw the first dust devil of the year spinning down the street, full of whirling leaves and pine needles. The sky has been swept clean of clouds and there is no hint of the smell of rain that was in the air two nights ago. The day is as dry as a crackling leaf.

In the afternoon, I went for a walk partway down the path at the base of the last ridge. I love the sound my footsteps make in the dry earth, and the little puffs of dust that rise around my shoes, and the warm smell of September that mingles dust and dry grass and pine. Passing by one of the apple trees that has survived in an abandoned orchard, where the fallen fruit lies thick on the ground, there was added the scent of its fermentation, warm and sweet. The sunlight filtered through translucent leaves was gentle, and the shadows were full of the buzzing of insects. Unseen birds rustled the brush under the pines. I could imagine that all the clocks had stopped, and only the soft sound of my footsteps kept time passing.

Later, the sun was directly behind a tall pine across the street from my house. The halo of light around the treetop reminded me of those icons of Byzantine saints. I don't think the Greek church has ever canonized a tree, though. Maybe what I saw was just Osiris giving a blessing to Wotan.

Ah, what with interruptions for dinner and all, it is now several hours since I began to write this, and the nearly-full moon is rising in a sky still perfectly clear. The wind has diminished a little, but I still here an acorn fall on a rooftop from time to time. This promises to be a very nice night. I hope I have time to go out and enjoy some of it.