After last night’s rain the woods smell sensual—a mixture of leaves and musk. The morels have disappeared, and soon I’ll come across those yellow chanterelles, the kind they sell in town at the farmers’ market. Once I saw the Swedish woman who raises her own food foraging for them, two blond boys quarreling near the pickup, and the next morning they were selling them from their stand beside the road. Out here, among last year’s dead leaves with the new shoots of spruces poking through them, I’ve come to the place where light brightens a glade of ferns and the log someone else placed here—carved “B.W.”—where I sometimes sit to listen to the birds. Today the sun is breaking through the wet branches, revealing a clean sky, brilliant, cerulean. Then, suddenly, a raft of scudding clouds promising more rain. If it comes, I’ll read all afternoon— Henry James, or maybe Eudora Welty’s Delta Wedding, where so many characters vie for attention I can never keep them straight. Here, there’s no one else, no one to worry over or argue with or love. Maybe the earth was meant only for this: small comings and goings on the forest floor, the understory astir with its own secret life. If I sit still enough among the damp trees, sometimes I see the world without myself in it, and—it always surprises me— nothing at all is lost.
In the Backyard
This morning a hawk plunges straight for the squirrel at my feeder and leaves only its signature: blood on the snow. All morning it circled the yard, then dove, stunning itself on the glass sky of my window, and in minutes returned, braving the thin, perilous channel between hedgerow and house. I was watching its path as it fell, its persistence, and the squirrel, how it dashed for the downspout, finding itself motionless under the heat of the hawk’s body, the claws in its rib cage, the sudden tearing of wind as it rose over the fence, the feeder, the tops of maples and houses. All morning it stays with me, not the squirrel’s terror, the hawk’s accuracy, but only how it must feel to be lifted out of your life, astonished at the yard growing smaller, the earth with its snow-covered fields tilting, and what must be your shadow flying across it, farther and farther below.