Tapestry

It is still warm in the woods and the foliage has already begun to retreat from the trails. One golden maple leaf lays on the ground dry, completely intact for a little while before she begins to transition to dirt.

*

Night slips through the window with the sound of passing cars, a little cool air.

It is so good: the end of a day. I did everything I could to live. There was just 30 minutes of wasted time when I was too polite to pry myself out of a conversation where each closing remark spurred a new idea even though we both wanted to move along to other things.

*

Being soft is not always joy. But I am so enamored with the gentle hint of Autumn encroaching in the air I don’t want to talk about anything else.

Eternity.

Surrender.

Home.

*

Today I took a long walk in the arboretum then lay in the grass for a couple hours doing nothing. I didn’t read a book, or draw, or even fall asleep. I watched the yellow leaves droop in the other wise green brush. I collected wiry pieces of dead grass in my socks where my blanket was too short.

It takes a lifetime to slough off everything we aren’t…why do I believe I should already be in blossoms? The trees take so much time to grow and then fruit. Then they spend decades weaving themselves thoughtfully into the tapestry of moments with their grand decay.

*

Sometimes I lose my appetite and I feel it like a protest: your priorities are all wrong.

Money.

Efficiency.

Not inconveniencing anybody.

Why do I believe I should only make things that will last forever?

*

At the far end of the creek the water trickles over a wide rock bed crossed with crevices. One song sparrow hops out of the salal at the creek’s edge to flit about the rocks in the shallow water rearranging leaves and eating bugs.

I cast off my white long-sleeve shirt while the song sparrow leaves a pile of white poop on the rocks.

What if our legacy is supposed to fit in a shoe box or a manila envelope? A few molecules of air when we say goodbye.

Foraging

Today I learned that one can discern the size of a tree’s leaves by their sounds.

*

In my early 20s I went to the health food store to buy some miso and got reprimanded by the guy behind the deli counter. “There’s a lot of searching in your face.” he pointed out with righteous derision.

I just wanted to know which fermented soy product was the best source of vitamin B12. But he knew, by some magic face reading technique, that I was stuck in an existential question that seeped into each smaller question making every decision a near life or death struggle.

Twenty some years later I’m sitting under a magnolia tree writing a letter from my many question. It’s an ongoing letter to celebrate the potential of these queries. A journal you could say.

I fall asleep in the meadow after writing my letter then wake in the company of a deer stepping lightly through the grass several yards away and feel my letters could be answered by her softness. The new age face reader was not wrong, but he also wasn’t adept.

* * *

Yesterday it was ninety degrees. The days are slowly getting shorter. The trees and shrubs are at their fullest and the crows are leaving their nests to gather in large groups, filling the sky right above the avenue as if they might take a hard right at the next intersection.

Recently I decided to make my heart my art business partner and while I can’t explain to you how this works there is a lightness to my days. I know what to do. Some projects I thought were necessary are shelved and when I walk through my favorite neighborhood path up the stairs under a low canopy of leaves there is no need to search for redemption in the luxuriousness.

* *

The crows are foraging on the forest floor. One juvenile screams at regular intervals. Another picks up a stick and drops it repeatedly.

Something startles the crows and they fly into the tree tops all at once.

Their soft black color is especially regal in the woods. As if they fly in the exact midpoint between a question and its answer, denizens of both realms with no need to make them separate places.

* * *

I’ve been angry lately. It’s such an unflattering story, this anger. But this morning I woke up feeling soft and tended to the ordinary. I folded laundry with the utmost care, attuned to the magnitude of dwelling lightly in my own neighborhood.

Then, I found in my shared house that there is a secret place in the early hours where I can sit with the flowers in the yard and talk to this anger. “What has it been like all this time waiting for someone else to think of you?”

* * *

Today it’s warm and the light is golden between leaf shadows. The squirrels chase each other up the rough tree trunks. The butterflies flutter about as if it’s no big deal to fly and people wander the trails queitly like shadows.

I sit with the trees and feel a peace between us. They knit oxygen and shade and house all my neighbors. I make carbon dioxide and silky shadows that carry sorrow, beauty and questions so I don’t have to leave them alone for the day while I act like someone else.

One evening I walked home to the sound of neighborhood bagpipes and it felt just like laying in the grass listening to leaves and melting into the earth. I lived most of my life with dust and shadows. My own body and aloneness because I never gave myself permission to sign on my own behalf. To trust that questions are like leaves and answers are whatever gravity and the wind agree to the day the leaf separates from the tree.

Breathing

I walk into the dark woods
under the evening clouds
to sit on a log.

The woods begin breathing oxygen
and we menace each other
as the owls leave
their tight camouflage to hunt
and the moon chases the sun
over the edge of the neighborhood.

Darkness is soft at least.

On the way home the crows cackle.
The sound of shopping carts and aluminum cans
sharpen the silence as the sun fades
little by little.

Nearness of Wings

A hawk flies into a tall pine
followed by an angry crow.
A towhee screes across the street
while I walk down the hill
from the neighborhood
into the woods
where everything is filling in
with new shades of green.

The mallards are in the creek
where I stop to sketch the trees.
It’s an uneventful session today,
drawing impatiently in the woods.

When I cross the road
from the trail head to go home
I feel my last chance
slipping away from me.

I walk under the freeway
and hear a Red-winged Blackbird
for the first time here.

Did they just move in to this swale
built between I-5 and Barbur
when the cattails
became tall enough to perch on?

It’s such a tiny piece of wetlands
abbreviated by the street
that leads back to my dry wall cube.
A townhouse that is suddenly more
than an address on an avenue.
It is a place just north of the swale
and west of the creek
in the nearness of wings.

Gentleness of Rain.

watercolor illustration of a person walking down a rainy spring street by Alexandra Schaefers

A rainstorm comes in just as I leave for an early morning walk. My heavy cotton trench coat soaks through at the shoulders in the chorus of rain plunking through the trees and onto the ground.  

As I burrow through the streets littered with flower petals and teeming with spring’s growth I wonder why I’ve been so diligently timing my walks during sun breaks or overcast moments. 

Yesterday I walked to the office over the freeway under the gray clouds after several days of sunshine but I couldn’t remember what season it was for a long moment.

I don’t know the cause of these disconnects but today is my day to tend to chores and rest and walking in the soft deluge settles me into the goodness of ordinary tasks. 

The neighborhood houses are dark still but each one holds at least one human’s heart. A person sleeping, making coffee perhaps—safe and dry under their roof while their dreams slip out to catch the clear light as they bounce off the asphalt with the rain.

When I return home I hang my coat in the garage to drip dry, leave my hat by the gas fireplace then sit by the window in damp hair and pajama pants soaked below the knee to re-calibrate to the gentleness of rain.

This One Thing

No one is on the street.

When the sun lights up the air before me it is alive with pollen and dust which settles into the cracks of the asphalt like a golden mend.

I find a log by the creek, eat a couple pieces of toast from a paper sack in my pocket, then paint the forest. The sun shifts the colors as I work. Green and gold trees emerge from black shadows.

When my hands are cold I pack up my paint and walk into the woods where some earnestness finds me in the early angled light. As if all my life my body wanted this one thing: to wake at dawn—to paint trees.

And all this time I’ve been making a nice breakfast instead.