Today I am in the studio, writing. Through the west window I see a magnificant maple, one-forth of which has turned brilliant orange. The rest
remains mostly green. Other trees betray just a hint of color. Here in the valley Autumn comes late; we expect to be in full color around the 10th of October.
Over the weekend we were in southeastern Massachusetts. There the ocean and the land dance an intricate, sinuous number. Innumerable small streams empty into the sea, creating
stretches of tidal marsh hidden in nooks and crannies of coastline. Where human disturbance is minimal, birds of prey, shore birds, and other wildlife may be found, along with ancient, now abandoned orchards growing from atop hillocks to nearly the water’s edge. Standing on the high ground overlooking the farms and marshes, one cam easily imagine oneself in Devon; this is truly new England.
The salt marshes once provided high quality grazing to local livestock. They also nurtured the production of teaming estuaries, hatcheries for the unthinkably abundant North Atlantic fisheries. Now only remnants remain. Yet to walk there, usually in solitude, is to be permeated with the sights, textures, and aromas of the ocean and the shore.
Southeastern Massachusetts lags behind the rest of New England in seasonal change. The ocean, unusually balmy this year, slows Autumn’s onrush. A few miles away from the sea, one sees splashes of color in swamps and along the streams.
As the day wanes, the landscape becomes more atmospheric. The crickets become more vocal, as do a few late season songbirds, and the chick-a-dees hiding in the foliage. A few follow us along the path, reminding us we are not alone. Indeed we are here, surrounded by, touched by, life. (Least we forget there are masses of deer ticks seeking blood meals to reproduce their kind, and viruses riding within them, seeking the same.)
The elders have always taught us to awaken to the life stories of the lifeforms with which we share the cosmos, and to acknowledge the miracle of each life. Those of us who live in cities easily lose sight of the lives of non-human others, and in doing so, forget our connectedness with life everywhere. Now that I am an elder, the truth of these teachings grows for me. This life we have each been given is delicate and resilient, singular and infinitely intertwined with others. This life passes, and because it passes, we know that our lives, and all lives are sacred. In the end, crickets, songbirds, and humans share life and death, even as our own lives and deaths are unique. This sharing and dying is a Great Mystery.