Autumnsong 1

August 26, 2016

I walk for three hours, starting early in the morning to avoid the creeping heat and humidity. I hear steam coming off the fields, like so many hissing snakes. The ground is soaked from last night’s storm and the roads are scarred with trails of mud.

On Stroke Hill, I see a Cooper’s hawk emerge from a tree and glide in a straight line down to a field, and there is a wail, a rabbit, and then there are only bits of rabbit. The hawk raises its head and glares at me, as if I were going to steal its food. How could I not crave raw rabbit?

A line of ironwood trees, bark twisted in tumultuous swirls, drop their heavy Osage oranges onto the asphalt. There are still pioneer home sites with fence posts hewn from steel-like ironwood. Rose of Sharon blooms up and down the road, and brown-eyed Susan and Queen Ann’s lace. In the sun patches, butterflies maneuver for space, blue swallowtails charging at blue fritillaries, tiger swallowtails chasing yellow dog-eye sulphurs, and tiny dappled checkerspots moving around the melee.

At the bottom of the long hill, Hummingbird Man’s ten feeders have customers, the rubythroats all frenzied, all warned by a signal that soon it will be time to fly to Mexico. And there are the first striped wooly caterpillars inching their way west-to-east. And the great emerald green of forest slowly removes its makeup.

Water drips from seeps in the limestone bluff walls, water drips from leaves, salt water runs in rivulets down my body, water courses through every crack and niche and ditch of earth, water bubbles up from mud.

Along the island, great egrets and snowy egrets fish. I see a mother drop a minnow into its baby’s beak, the squawking youngster wanting more, more. Blue herons perch on stilt legs and scan the water’s coffee-colored surface. Carp roil and splash, their fins above water.

On the River Road trail, acorns have begun to fall. I kick them soccer style, trying to keep them on the path. In two more weeks, every step will crack with smashed nuts. Blacksnakes and blue racers are on the move. My neighbor found a rat snake in her house a few days ago, the serpent seeking out rodents.

I climb two three-hundred-foot hill bluffs, getting in shape for my next month’s adventure at the Grand Canyon. Horseflies suck my neck and sting my shoulder blades. The landscape of two rivers and flood plain and channel trees emerge, Missouri covered in blue haze, in cottonwood seed, in rich muck.

Then home, exhausted, exhilarated, gasping for air, nervous, bite-marked, bad kneecap crackling. Grateful. Worried. Un-blind.

Tom Waitts in my inner ear: “I don’t want to grow up.”

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