Storm Home


Almost all the leaves are gone from the maples today, this image from a week ago. Abscission seems to have come so quickly this year, in a rush to get on with it–toward what end, we cannot know.

Like every winter, this one is supposed to be “a bad one” which, if that means lots of snow, praise be. We need it badly to soak into the water table, to enrich the soil with nitrogen (I heard that was the case but will have to fact check.)

And at the same time, I dread the prospect of ice storms in the dark on a work day, especially for Ann who leaves before first light or returns on isolated black-ice roads a midnight.

But sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof, or however that verse goes, meaning don’t borrow trouble as you have enough already in your account to draw from.

And when trouble comes, we have, as Garrison Keillor calls it, our Storm Home.

If any of you are familiar with (or even have) Slow Road Home, the book cover was taken at just this time of year but from about the same distance from the mailbox looking from down the road, exactly opposite of this view.

As I’m writing now, you’ll see me at my cluttered oak desk if you peek into the window just left of the front porch (where golden maple and yellow poplar leaves have swirled into an eddy and found rest on our porch swing.)

This is a morning shot, the floor lamp in the window says I’d been sitting on the loveseat reading just moments before the light lured me outdoors. It was in the low 40s that morning, and it’s amazing how supercooled a metal tripod can become to bare fingers. It all comes back to me as I step into this image–the wonder of an image plus image-ination.

Yes We Can

There are a lot of good reasons to eat less meat. I offer the following.

There are 20 billion head of livestock on Earth, more than triple the number of people. According to the Worldwatch Institute, global livestock population has increased 60 percent since 1961, and the number of fowl being raised for food has nearly quadrupled in the same time period, from 4.2 billion to 15.7 billion.

The 4.8 pounds of grain fed to cattle to make one pound of beef represents a colossal waste of resources in a world teeming with hungry and malnourished people. According to Vegfam, a 10-acre farm can support 60 people growing soy, 24 people growing wheat, 10 people growing corn—but only two raising cattle.

Food First’s Frances Moore Lappé says to imagine sitting down to an eight-ounce steak. “Then imagine the room filled with 45 to 50 people with empty bowls … For the feed cost of your steak, each of their bowls could be filled with a full cup of cooked cereal grains.” Harvard nutritionist Jean Mayer says that reducing U.S. meat production 10 percent would free grain to feed 60 million people.

We’re not meatless but we eat less by far than we once did. We prefer it to be well-known animal protein from locally grown pastures. So we’ve been buying it to save for longer than next week’s table.

In the absence of a freezer (that keeps the e-meter spinning) Ann has returned again this year to the notion of canning meat (we use propane, wondering how we’d do it over an open pit fire as wood just keeps on growing, gas on the other hand…. Hmmm.)

We have pork chunks, beef chunks and sausage patties in pint jars upstairs on the canning shelves among this years tomatoes, green beans and pumpkin.

I’ll admit glass-canned pork looks a bit like goulish belljar specimens from the Museum of Meat (I keep looking for the two-headed piglet) but it’s good to know it’s up there and that we can buy meat when it’s on sale and keep it in this lower energy fashion. And we’ll think more and more highly of beans and plant the garden accordingly.

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NeitherNor of Autumn


Regarding yesterday’s contention that we are in Autumnal NeitherNor, Exhibit B. I rest my case–here, the most verdent summer greens, moreso with yesterday’s rain, even while some trees are already conspicuously strutting their very finest show of fall color and others (the walnuts like this one) lost their garments entirely.

It promises to be a high-volume weekend for the leaf-peepers who will come up-mountain to enjoy the pageantry of high places.

On Sunday, I will be tending a book table offering Slow Road Home at Mabry Mill (guess I should have used an image from there for this post; I’ll do that for Friday instead.) If you aren’t familiar with it, the mill is the most heavily photographed manmade object along the 400+ miles of the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Typically on fall weekends, there will be some music being made on the grounds, sometimes apple butter making and other such local-cultural goings-on as well. The parking lot–even in these uncertain times–is likely to be filled and into the overflow space come a glorious mid-October weekend as this one promises to be.

I’ve heard a few people say (and I concur) that the season is peaking early this year, but of course that varies by elevation and location. Our poplars missed yellow and went straight to brown; places with more rainfall, the color is better.

I’ll have books to sell and sign and notecards to show but can’t sell the cards as the concession there doesn’t carry them. I can give out order forms for them though for mail order. Maybe I’ll see a few of you there?

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Prophetic: Toward a New Nobility?

I wondered aloud in passing to Ann, in the other room reading this morning, if given the end of the Bush Regime so close at hand, we might dare look toward a return to our former good name among the nations, to be a country once more with virtues to aspire to. She read back from Isaiah open, it turns out, to this very passage:

Isaiah 32: The Kingdom of Righteousness

1 See, a king will reign in righteousness
and rulers will rule with justice. 2 Each man will be like a shelter from the wind
and a refuge from the storm,
like streams of water in the desert
and the shadow of a great rock in a thirsty land.

3 Then the eyes of those who see will no longer be closed,
and the ears of those who hear will listen.

4 The mind of the rash will know and understand,
and the stammering tongue will be fluent and clear.

5 No longer will the fool be called noble
nor the scoundrel be highly respected.

6 For the fool speaks folly,
his mind is busy with evil:
He practices ungodliness
and spreads error concerning the LORD;
the hungry he leaves empty
and from the thirsty he withholds water.

7 The scoundrel’s methods are wicked,
he makes up evil schemes
to destroy the poor with lies,
even when the plea of the needy is just.

8 But the noble man makes noble plans,
and by noble deeds he stands.

Enough Light for Reflection


We won’t move very far this morning–only down the steep bank from yesterday’s vantage point, down into the creek bed, stepping carefully from rock to rock in our street shoes.

If you look at yesterday’s image with the road as focus, today you see the same fallen trunk across the creek with the creek itself–a trickle though it is–reflecting the first yellow and gold.

And green. If there is, as I have written, a “neither-nor” season as spring comes so agonizingly slowly, there is the autumn equivalent, still green while leaves sound brittle and senescent even before they yellow and fall. And a slow departure makes the transition a bit easier to get our minds and hearts around.

Days shorten. Life centers within walls. The smell of woodsmoke and wool blankets. Bring it on.