Friday, August 31, 2012

New England Septembers

I am a midwesterner, though it isn't a word.  An Ozarkian, too.  I like hospitality, and warm weather, and mild winters (with moderate snowfall).  I like being able to cross the street as a pedestrian without being honked at by impatient drivers.  And I looove sweet tea: Southern sweet and Southern strong, not the kind you have to wait a few minutes after swallowing to assess the flavor of.  Real tea.

I like the woods and national forests where it really feels wild; where the paths aren't all paved and you have to wrestle with the underbrush a bit to find that unmistakeably lovely destination.  I like towns so small and reticent toward outsiders that a foreigner is someone from the next state or even county.  Towns where no one has ever heard of hummus, and everyone's favorite way to celebrate anything is a barbecue on the riverbank.

I love windy, hilly roads that make most people sick, and red gravel roads (technically gravel, actually mostly composed of clay) that kick up all that annoying dust. 

But... there is no denying New England its claim to fame in September through October.  The colors are all the riotous glory Robert Frost wrote about.  This will be the second year I have spent autumn in the northeast, and it certainly has its beauties during that season.

Last year, a trip was in order.  Washington Irving being a favorite of mine, of course I must instigate a trip to Sleepy Hollow (the original), Tarrytown, and the Old Dutch Church and cemetery.  We took our way down through the Catskill Mountains and along the Hudson River, to cover Rip van Winkle country as well.  It was well worth the trip.  The old Dutch church is of general historic significance: it has been in use since 1697, and has one of those fine old pulpits the pastor ascends into via staircase.  In the cemetery behind it, several famous people are buried, among whom are Washington Irving and Andrew Carnegie (people leave coins on Carnegie's tombstone, apparently hoping for his good financial success).  But the main striking point of it all was how lovely the entire area was, and how the leaves teemed with brilliant color.

Old farm and estate in Sleepy Hollow, something like the van Tassels'.
A path in the Sleepy Hollow cemetery behind the Old Dutch Church.
Some fallen leaves on a slope leading down to the brook.
Light on the water.  This brook seems to be the one over which the headless horseman galloped.
Bridge over the Hudson River, seen from the Lyndhurst estate.
Now, of late the weather has been still hot enough to be summer-but the nights are much cooler than their Southern counterparts; there is a nip in the air, some days, and the maples are beginning to flame at the tips.  I believe we are on the verge of the loveliest season once again, and although I am always missing the Ozarks hill country, I am delighted to experience another New England fall.

The Colgate Tower, Brighton, NY.
Playing with geese held over locally on their long trip south.

Thursday, August 23, 2012


Steve Curtin.

I like to ramble, but I get lost in it.  They say Dylan Thomas wrote near the end of life that "the words will not lie down."  Now I know just what he meant; and friends and family feel the full force of it, too.  I say a thing, or more likely, write a thing, but it isn't quite what I mean and I keep repeating it but refining what I don't like... lost in an obsession to express a meaning, but forgetting the meaning in all those words.

I repeat it again, and he looks back at me with the pained expression of acute suffering as he says for the third time, "I know; I understand."

But I know he can't, not really, because I haven't truly said it yet.  Ah, me.  Hundreds of words, and only a single right one.  I know I can find it, fit it together piece by shining piece, a perfectly expressed thought or feeling, fragile and beautiful like a spider's web... but not before he gives up on my rambling, kisses me goodbye and leaves for work.  Leaves me exasperated and still trying one more phrase on like a girl trying on all the clothes in a friend's closet.

The truth is upon me but I generally refuse to acknowledge it, standing in the corner like Caesar's ghost. Meaning will never be perfectly expressed.  No matter what I do, or how I try, those with greater mercurial powers than I have had to admit defeat before.  "The words will not..." quite... "lie down."


  That orbed maiden with white fire laden
Whom mortals call the Moon,
Glides glimmering o'er my fleece-like floor
By the midnight breezes strewn;
And wherever the beat of her unseen feet
Which only the angels hear,
May have broken the woof of my tent's thin roof,
The stars peep behind her and peer.."
                       -P.B. Shelley, "The Cloud"

I was thinking of this verse when I saw the new background for Scieppan with the moon in it, and went looking for a picture to go with it.  I chose this one because it reminds me of a place I saw in Poland, Łasienki Park in Warsaw.  I loved Łasienki better than anywhere else I visited; whether because of the pert, tuft-eared red squirrels, or the water birds skidding on the thin ice, or the beautiful neoclassical ruins, erected as such because it was considered so romantic during that period.
Łasienki Park, Nov. 2011

Łasienki Park, Nov. 2011