What the crow dropped.
The other morning I was standing on my back porch, inspecting the chaos that had descended on my container garden. For such as small cluster of pots, the damage was considerable. Several terra cotta planters were knocked over and broken, and even more plants had been dug up and disrupted. Mayhem had clearly ensued but why? Just then a small object exploded at my feet, accompanied by an outraged caw from above and the briefest flutter of coal black wings. What?
I leaned over to peer at the exploded mess. It was a walnut, broken out of its green case to reveal the newly-formed nut within. Glancing up again, I confirmed that the caw belonged to a member of a flock of crows (a murder of crows!) that had recently descended on the enormous walnut tree that occupies a corner of our property. A nearby bush rattled and out popped a very plump squirrel with an enormous, well-endowed tail and he, too, was in proud possession of a fresh walnut clutched between his admittedly very cute paws. He eyed the last undisturbed pot in my garden. Clearly he had plans and with a twitch of his impressive tail, he proceeded scold me for getting in between him and his pantry.
Ah, yes — autumn's coming. There have been other, more subtle clues: a shifting of light at sunset so that the far wall of the garden is briefly lit, a touch of blush appearing on the topmost apples on the courtyard tree, the occasional scarlet leaf scuttling along the sidewalk. But I've been distracted by the tumble of summer tomatoes and sweet melons and the enormous and occasionally confusing selection of exotic looking summer squash and zucchini. Summer is still in the center of the stage but the slow turning has started.
I'm reminded that there are many more seasons then the usual four. There's the season in January where winter intensifies into a deeper stillness and the season in July when summer rolls into town like a carnival. There's the season of March when spring and winter do their back-and-forth dance and tender green things start appearing in the markets. And then there's this season, this late August time, where summer and fall are exchanging places and the squirrel and the crow (and the human being!) go a little mad from the all wealth and plenty.
It doesn't always have to take the destruction of your back porch container garden to notice these subtle shifts. You don't necessarily need a crow to almost drop a walnut on your head to wake up to the sweet, and maybe just a little sad, moment when summer begins to step back and the cool, smoky puff of autumn can be felt on your cheek. It's actually happening all this time, this tumbling of one thing into the other. All things, living and not, are in constant flux for we live in the middle of the great wheel, a spinning top, anll around us, all the time, is the relentless, gorgeous, poignant turning of everything into everything else.
Like the thief that I am, I reach down and pick up the walnut and bring it into my house and put it onto my altar. It's there as a celebration of this summer/autumn time and as a reminder of the turning and the moment when one thing slips into another, as we all will do one day.
(Image: Dana Velden)