Thursday, October 14, 2021

Diminished Things

            Fall has always been my favorite time of year – the colors, of course, and the end of hot, humid days. And when I was teaching, I looked forward to autumn as a time of beginning, with new students facing me, new ways to throw them off balance, (“Yes, the Greek myths are true, even today. Let’s see how . . ..”). [Note 5 punctuation marks in proper sequence.]


            But now, fall has a different feeling, perhaps because it mirrors what can optimistically be seen as my time of life, with winter looming. It seems to be a time of putting things away. Yes, the birds and squirrels are storing nuts and seeds. And our neighbors just north of us, before departing for California, packed away their dock, their outdoor furniture, paddleboards, boat, etc. We have put some of our summer stuff away, too – my paddleboard, our kayak, a teak table and chairs, my hammock. Our neighbors to the south, here until late October, are sharing apples, pears and veggies from their garden – not exactly “putting things away,” but still, it’s moving things inside – inside my stomach.


            Kim and I are looking forward to winter. Our world will be smaller here, with neighbors gone, but we love the beauty of snow – not so much with an April snow, but the first snows are thrilling. We’ll be indoors more, though I enjoy the shoveling, and Kim and I are planning to take walks most days. We have been very busy with our yardwork – weeding, of course, some tree work, cleaning up the beach, planting trillium, and Kim located about two dozen basketball-sized rocks that we needed to dig up and reposition beautifully. Indoor projects will give us a break from these physical demands. Unless Kim decides that the two of us need to lift the garage and move it a few feet closer to the house . . ..


            All of which leads to one of my favorite poems by our old friend, Robert Frost:


            The Oven Bird


There is a singer everyone has heard,

Loud, a mid-summer and a mid-wood bird,

Who makes the solid tree trunks sound again.

He says that leaves are old and that for flowers

Mid-summer is to spring as one to ten.

He says that early petal-fall is past

When pear and cherry bloom went down in showers

On sunny days a moment overcast;

And comes that other fall we name the fall.

He says the highway dust is over all.

The bird would cease and be as other birds

But that he knows in singing not to sing.

The question that he frames in all but words

Is what to make of a diminished thing.


            That’s it, then. Now that “early petal-fall is past,” and “the highway dust is over all,” the question is, What do we “make of a diminished thing” at this time in our lives?


            Here’s one idea:



Honey Mushrooms, choice edible

Oyster Mushrooms, choice edible

White Spongy Polypore, not edible

Multicolor Gill Polypore, not edible

Shaggy Mane, choice edible before it self-digests

Shaggy Mane, not edible beginning to self-digest turning black liquid

Destroying Angel, as name implies, deadly poisonous

These identifications are guesses from Doug Reilly. He strongly cautions, "DO NOT ACCEPT MY GUESS!"


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