The afternoon hours were glorious and sun-mellowed for another day in a row. The landscape's palette deepens day by day--though, I'm so happy to say, we are not yet done with flowers. ("Aren't they beautiful?" the woman who got out of her car as I perched beside this flower said. "They're called mallow. I have them in my yard." In Gambier, people will offer you random thoughts like this.)
I continue to try to get pictures of our trees commensurate with their blazing. Partly for this purpose, and partly to see what I could see, I headed down the hill to the environmental center just before dusk.
I cast a shadow as long as the hill's highway is wide. By the time I hit the bottom of the valley, I had lengthened out my stride and fairly flew to the prairie space where I could wander along the path in the shoulder-high plants. And that's when the night grew interesting indeed.
Walking the four-foot cut through these stalks and stems, I realized I was dipping through pockets of radically different temperatures, warm as if still sun-warmed one moment, then chill with the coming night the next. Small birds took the air, startled at my approach. The night insects shrilled and whistled slowly; their sheer, continuing number surprised me. Occasionally, I would find myself about to walk face-first into a living constellation, a silent swarm. Without my having planned it this way, it became a walk for finding final flowers and silhouetted seeds, an irregular geometry of passage.
I am meditating on a lecture I'll deliver here next week, and meditating on the lecture is helping me think about how a walk like tonight's works as meditation for me. A camera in the palm of my hand fragments what I see into individual shots, certainly, but it also makes what's in those shots visible to me with a different range of patterns and meanings than when I apprehend it as something that will have continued existence only in my memory, or in my words. Having traced barns and flowers for so much of the spring and summer, I find myself collecting seeds and fruits now. Tonight, I think I was also collecting darknesses, trying them on for size, thinking about how the last ten weeks of our slide into the dark of the year will feel. As I walked back up the hill toward home, the eastern sky was its late-dusk deepening pastels, and the sun was well gone already, though it was only 7:15.
It is that moment in the autumn, then, when I feel fully that the darkness is coming; this moment comes every autumn, often right around the time the trees begin to reduplicate the sun at midday. Last year wasn't too bad. I'm hoping that this year won't be, either: so far, I seem to continue finding growth, and possibly even being growth itself, even as the temperatures lower and all that has been green shifts to every shade of brown and gold one might imagine. This year, I'm actually looking forward to watching the patterns around me keep changing into things I not only don't remember but also can't foresee.