Westminster Quarters

Posted November 9th, 2009

Theo was not pleased. She parked herself in the doorway to the office, as though following instructions about seeking safety during an earthquake. Her tail locked around her legs and her yellow eyes gleamed disapproval. I wasn’t quite sure what the noise was. It sounded like an industrial-weight vacuum cleaner but the roar—not that I with my monaural hearing can actually determine direction—seemed to be outside.

Then dry leaves and the silver fluff botanists call pappus whirled past my window. It occurred to me it was Thursday, the day the lawn service cuts the grass. Might they be doing more for us than trimming turf and waging war on weeds?

On the heels of that thought, a pair of young men in glowing chartreuse vests moved into view in staggered formation. The first cleared the patio, the second cleaned under and around furniture and behind pots of impatiens waiting to succumb to the first serious frost. Vest Number 1 continued past my line of sight; Vest Number 2 scoured leaves tangled in thickets of yellow-green sedum and dark, glossy ajuga and wedged below lavender bushes. A few minutes later a tidal wave of fallen foliage whooshed into the woods, mulching the border of forest.

My Men in Neon have just, in a few minutes, saved me hours of raking and schlepping and also from at least one aching back. They have also left the behind a richer more inviting world for the turtles and toads, bugs and birds and snakes and furry things that travel through and stake their claims to our fragment of forest.

Fall color is past its peak, of course, or my Men in Neon would not have been here. Daylight Saving is spent, orchids have retreated to winter homes on windowsills and tabletops, and days accelerate toward exams and grades and holidays. The mob Odocoileus virginianus has assembled and appears to number eight this year: three does and their five fawns and I can only appeal to Mother Nature to distract them somehow from my shrubbery. Juncos have returned and dominate the feeders.

A New Englander by background and inclination, I celebrate the feel of the boreal breeze. Like the chimes of the Westminster Quarters, the change in seasons organizes my annual routine. They offer hopeful anticipation yet focus my attention on the moment soon to be supplanted: the blue incandescence of winter; the efflorescence of spring; the playfulness of summer; and most of all, the intense aliveness of autumn.

Outside my window it is exuberant and wild. Branches have shaken their burden of foliage, flower and fruit. The wind is joyous energy, sometimes an invitation to dance, sometimes a challenge to battle. Seeds born aloft on glistening silk, leaves skittering down the street, hawks that pause here on mid-migration all make me want to follow.

As the din of the leaf blowers subsided, Theo’s tension eased. She looked at me and blinked. Slowly. Her world had not changed, her comforts were secure. A migratory creature, she observes the shift in seasons by sleeping outside in the sun when days are long and inside in a patch of sun when days are short. She does not feel my urges as she purrs tabby happiness in the here and now.



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