The kids take pictures of me napping at unflattering angles. The first colors of fall start along the highway: the pink-purple fireweed against the green, the coming yellows and browns. Those black spruces leaning in the muskeg, long patches of sphagnum across the tundra like the color palette we saw in Scotland that one November. The stark feeling in Alaska that we are far, far away. Far away, and closer still.
The busybody hummingbirds taunt our cat. Tree frogs eye me from the side. A scribble of bugs in the sunset coagulating in the shape of a question mark. Denali just lost an hour of daylight this week. An owl hoots. Maybe it’s true, that wood is life and time, the fire that feeds on it: accelerating or going idle, burning faster or slower for reasons outside of our control. That despite all the death from the burn there is new life, and the fires burn off the dead, and diseased.
The day softens with pink and gold dabbing the edges. Smells change. The birds sing first, then the frogs. Between are the bats, silent save for their flaps. The night comes slow in late summer, the mornings too.
We are what we believe we are: considerably less, considerably more, but confined to the frame that we make for ourselves.
The night drops out of the sky. New sounds emerge, geese overhead squawk their goodbyes, their good riddance. Distant traffic can always be pawned off as the tide going out. And when jets arc the sky…always the appeal of the foreign, of going away.
I sit waiting for the first pin pricks of stars on the night. August fades to pink in the west; we cut down all that’s dead in the yard then toss it on a tarp for the transfer station. The earth is starved for it, for the changing of the guard, for the routine.
Dawn’s hair is whitening on the edges of her face, there. But we are nowhere near the winter of our lives, this season: more, late summer. Tomorrow I’ll cut the grass and pack the clippings in a bag. It is the last of the 8 o’clock sunsets now, and time to gather wood.