a plague of unexpected assistants

two days ago
from the southwest
in small numbers  but steadily
a plague of grackles came flying cackling overhead
and almost simultaneously a rainfall of black walnuts
thudding and plopping down

surely there was a connection between the appearance of the eventual hundreds of grackles
 of whom a great number is called a plague
and the fortuitous fall of the nuts I have been collecting. . . 

they swept through flitting from tree to tree
the long length of the yard   some several hundreds of feet
barely stopping to perch
chattering a constant cacophony of cackle cackle cackle
 accompanied by the plunk thunk crunk
as the nuts hit the ground

I swept up the binoculars
and finally found a few still enough
to observe them pecking at the nuts in the trees

after about 30 minutes they left the area
but later in the afternoon returned
for more of the same

I figured it out:
inside the blackening rotting husks
of the walnuts
are multitudes of squirmy maggots
sometimes clumped in the hundreds

this is what the grackles seek
and prise from the nuts
as they fly by

thank you my gracks
for so speeding up my collection efforts
and for the wonder of the shining black whirl
of your passing through


I descend from a line of gatherers
little surprise then
to find myself shortly after dawn
with a basket on my arm
 head down   line of sight on the lawn
seeking among the grass   the fallen leaves 
of the walnut trees
for the nuts which have begun to fall
 ripe ready  from heaviness  
  from the signals of summer’s wane

as I find them  basket them
I am reminded of trips to the chicken coop
when I was four or so  with my mother
and the slipping of eggs from beneath
the warm underbellies of red hens

I am reminded of fall visits from my grandmother
 for whom I am namesake
seeking mushrooms in the Ohio woods
putting them in this very same basket
the seeking posture also   the same

in both cases a race against
 the other gatherers
in the walnut case   squirrels
in the mushroom case   snails and bugs

these black walnuts  the toughest nuts to crack
 lime size and lime green
(this  a year for large ones)
the husks  already   blackened softening  on some
 the precurssor event to shedding the husks
 which in this signaling of readiness
 stains the fingers of the collector

occasional skyward glances
 to detect which trees are nut bearing this year
then to ground again 

the eye develops a talent for perceiving
 a seeing through the camouflage
rendering the fallen nuts near invisible at first

already I am thinking ahead
to how I will protect them from my competing collectors
   squirrels  and raccoons   
while they complete   outside
   the shedding of husks that I might then
   begin the arduous task of cracking them open
   for the second harvest   getting to the meat of the matter

above me  sky sailing  the wind pushed clouds
  the heave and roil of tree tops
  dew and last night’s rain  and leaves   loosed and dropping
   about me  on me

there is music here
  the sounds of all these fallings
  the percussive efforts of several woodpeckers
  distant crow conversations
  scream of hawk
  songs of unseen birds whose names-by-song
    I do not yet know
  the occasional road rumble-bys of milk tankers
  pickup trucks caboosed  with corn harvesters  hay balers  
    other gatherers out in the early day  intent upon collections
     of their own


as with most mornings
I was awakened this morning by
bird song
and my first thought was
that this time next week
I’ll be awakening to birdsong
in a new splace

and perhaps to the lowing 
 of a cow or two
this is my last Saturday here
where I have awakened on somewhere 
  in the vicinity of
    900 other Saturdays

the last week of the ups and downs on the stairs
somewhere in the vicinity of
952,127 steps up
and a like number down

from this 
to a ladder with
  close to ten rungs
and a different kind of ups and downs

by this time next week
I will be either at or   close to
the end point of this particular trek 

good-bye to all this
and  hello 
to something else entirely

I look around at rooms
some empty but   four
  almost floor to ceiling boxes
and wonder where it will all fit
in the newer smaller quarters:
choices necessitated by the structure
of new space

*     *     *
and now it is Tuesday
and departure inches
no    speeds

I know I am nearing the end of this process
because I am packing away

the swarm of minutes

 gathered round  3:00 AM
long now  a favorite time of mine:
the rite of flowing down the stairs
to the kitchen    the harvest of the first mug
 of coffee in the day    the letting in of cats
their swirling around my feet
 waiting for their morning feed

attending   the wakening of 
    birdsong   the sun
attending   the bedding of the moon

rooted in these rituals
 about to be uprooted
no flight of stairs for the multiple 
   of days and nights
soon now   a ladder for climbing up
and clambering down
loft and balcony   and loft
wherein text and textile wait
  upon my weavings

returning to a landscape
 I have sorely missed
 where I belong
even as I lived in the beauty of
  the Otherness of where I’ve been
  for this long time away
returning to a skyscape
 180 degrees of blue and cloud tapestries
the earth  heaved and breathing
 hill slopes   plowed furrowed 
   and planted
the intersperse of field and woods
eye bursting greens   burnished reds and golds
the stark monochromes of winter
this was/is/will be  alchemy
 for me

taking down

room by room
paintings and sketches 
pinned to the walls
  spirit catchers  and favorite pendants
  and do-daads
  blown glass baubles and doodles
      sent by Beloveds
left on the walls
the ghost shadows on paint
 protected by what overlay

taking down
fleece abstracts on
  chicken wire
taking down all the empty book shelves

I have sour cherries
from a picking expedition last spring
in the freezer   one pie’s worth
 to be made into pie  before departure

doing my best   to use up   canned goods
 and freezer contents

in fewer than three weeks
 this part  the leave taking
will be concluded

and the last half
the settling in  to the new digs
will occur at a much more leisurely pace
interspersed with touring the new landscape
ogling and ohhhing and ahhhing  at all the beauty

the lost summer

a dramatic thunderstorm passed through
in the early predawn hours
now cool and low humidity
  for the first time in weeks

home no longer home
only a house  many rooms of which
almost completely filled
floor to ceiling with life 
  packed in 1.3 cubic foot boxes

two weeks ago
I headed west
970 miles to find
(and another 970 back)
a new home

and I did
in the Driftless Area 
  of southwestern Wisconsin
missed by glaciers of all four Ice Ages
the landscape is roller coaster hilly
 woods in wavy alternating strips with tall corn
  hay and soybeans
impeccably clean dairy farms

I have lived here before
high on a hilltop
where I was part of the weather 
  as it passed through

this time  valley life  hill bound
11.5 acres  upwards of 2 acres of it in 
  emerald green lawn beneath
  black walnut trees





the remainder a forested hillside
with trails blazed through it

a small pond
a bumper crop of blackberries 
which should be ripe when I arrive

20 minutes from Madison
which has grown in the intervening years
engulfing small surrounding towns
housing/condo/apartment developments
spreading over the landscape
and as it happens
when this happens
it has become an expensive place to live 

and I prefer the beauty and quiet of the countryside
especially since Madison is so rapidly reachable
via a four lane highway
that wasn’t there when I left

within minutes of
a dear woman friend of 35 years
the new county hospital
 should I ever need it
the county seat with
supermarket and farmers market
little towns with local cheese factories
two state parks with lakes 
and one on the Wisconsin river
 (and Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin)
miles and miles of bike paths
(all the way to Madison
should my legs ever become up to it)
ski areas both cross country and down(gentle)hill

the house itself  
  (mind you all furnishings are the current tenant's)

yes the porch is a-tilt
but only on the outside


I've concocted a tale
  as to why:
a landlooked ship's carpenter
moved by the rolling hills
built the porch while dreaming of
the pitch and yaw of sea waves . . . 

smaller than the generous space here
I doubt I will have space for all my shelving
for all my books
on the other hand
it has both a heatilator fireplace
in the lower living room


and a wood burning stove
in the upper (by one step up and open to each other) living room
 (stove not visible in this photo)


to supplement the furnace heat
and a stack of seasoned firewood
enough to last the first winter
all ready to burn
2 small bedrooms
a dining room
 which will be both library and workout room
2 screened porches
 one for clement weather dining
the other between the garage and house
 for keeping the firewood dry
 and the Weber out of the precipatate weather 
 for winter grilling use
a ladder between the large kitchen and upper living room
leads to a balcony that runs across the lower living space
 where I’m sure the cats will be pleased to sit on high overviewing
with a loft area at either end
 (one for text work:  the computer area
   the other for textile work: 
    spinning wheel/fleece/yarn/ drawing table designing


a tiny  but sufficient laundry room with applicances
it has a huge attached three car garage
one of which the landlord uses
to store the lawnmower and his motorcycle in the winter
the car will take up
maybe ½ of the remaining two car garage
and the rest can be used for storage

there will be new carpeting and new linoleum
installed before we arrive
and the 500 gallon oil tank for the furnace 
 will be full
computer/Net hookup  will be through satellite dish
 also installed before we arrive

altogether much less costly
 in rent and utilities 
than here

after we get there
mid-August there will be more photos
EMPTY signs are popping up here
on closets and furniture drawers
as packing up reaches the end:
 it can happen soon enough to please me!

packing the work of hands

packing sewing and quilt making fabric
and boxes of cards and graph papper 
of designs for various projects

sometimes I feel as though
I  have the attention span
of an amnesiac gnat
flit  flit  flit

many projects of great wiorth
that haven’t made it off
the drawing board
in 12 years or more

and a quilt top than only lacks backing and quilting
pieced and hand sewn
in the late ‘70’s

seeing them all
makes me want to get back
to doing them

I haven’t done any quilt making
in years -  not since I returned 
to knitting lace

and I still have trillions of beads
to pack up
from my bead work days

enough to keep me occupied
for at least 1000 years

between items of the Mind
and work of hands
I wouldn’t have even a femtosecond
of boredom