[Dear friends. Some of the things I am about to describe might sound … old-fashioned. Quaint. Not only in this blog entry but in many to come. You mustn’t think of them this way because nobody here does. Nobody thinks twice about the neighbors having an outhouse or loading the old roof tiles into a horse-drawn wagon or picking grapes from the vines beside their house. They do these things they same way we use fixed shower heads or mow our lawns every week or eat cereal for breakfast. It is not quaint because people here are not self-conscious about it; it is the stuff of messy, everyday life. I admit, it is difficult to resist the temptation. We must try.]
What I see:
Roofs of red tile and grey sheet metal, plaster walls of brown and pink and green and white.
Pale grey sky, soft sheen of rain drops.
Tired Chestnut trees, their browning leaves making piles underneath them.
Basketed bicycles with riders of all ages—old men with caps, old women with kerchiefs, middle-aged matriarchs carrying home dinner, famers carrying a scythe at their side, young people sporting stylish jeans and be-jeweled sweatshirts.
The re-construction of a out-building right outside my window.
Wildflowers (and berries) of appropriate Fall colors—white, orange, red, golden yellow, every shade of purple from periwinkle to deep-almost-black.
Blue mountains to the East, sometimes blending in with the clouds, sometime clear and sharp. I don’t know how far away they are. The land is so flat here, and I have no concept of space.
What I hear:
The crisp clip-clop of horses’ shod hooves on pavement and stone, the jingle of their harnesses, the crunch of the wagon wheels.
I’ve been interested, lately, in the sounds my own shoes make on various surfaces – hard-packed dirt of the path on the dike, brick side-walks, paved roads, cobble-stone roads, tile floors, rocky mud.
[Does anyone else find the word “cobble-stone” delightful? It rolls around in the mouth so nicely.]
The rooster that lives next-door.
The pig (pigs?) that also lives next-door and squeals like it is being tortured around a quarter after four every afternoon.
The students practicing for devotional singing with their guitars and keyboard in the room right across the hall from mine.
The school bells that ring every hour in the classroom building across the yard.
Dogs—so many dogs; they bark at everything that moves.
What I smell:
Mud-puddles on in the road.
Autumn seeping up from the wet earth and drying-dying plants.
Ripening grapes hanging from the vines that often shade the driveways along the sides of houses.
Old, unwanted plums that were crushed when they fell in the walkway.
Car exhaust, motorbike exhaust, semi-truck exhaust. How do those semis fit on these roads? I don’t know.
Books and paper and chocolate cake in the teacher’s lounge.
What I taste:
Bread, in enormous abundance.
Sausage and pork.
Warm, salty soup.
A firm, juicy apple that the porter gave me.
Road dust on a dry day.
Tasty fried treats.
Sweet, fruity tea. We drink it at every meal.
What I feel:
The soft, thin cushions placed on every chair.
The slick tile floors beneath my shoes and slippers.
Scratchy bug-bites that may or may not be the result of fleas.
Stiff, adventurous-feeling breezes that blow Autumn further in every day.
Warm socks and sweaters.
After lunch on Saturday, the clouds pulled themselves back and hung on the mountains in the East, while a steady wind blew in from the West The sun gave sharp outlines to the world under the cleared sky and made everything seem twice as real—the slanting roofs, the curled and drying Queen Anne’s Lace, the sagging corn tassels, the tall, still Ferris Wheel, unused for years, down by the river, every individual leaf.
The world has woken back up now that the rain has stopped. Birds are chatting again. I hear the strike of a hammer at work and the strike of a feeding woodpecker. Three other people join me in the pasture on the other side of the river, likely looking for mushrooms. Édit says this is the right time of year for them. Even the cow bells, persistently clanging on the other side of the field, sound more vivacious than they did the last time I was here: a hot, close, water-pregnant day before the rain started.
Why is it that Autumn light and color looks so different? For instance, brown is never just brown. It’s a wet-cold-grey-winter brown or a muddy-dark-living-loamy-spring brown or a dry-shimmering-dusty-tired-summer brown.
Or a drying-dying-living-crackled-Autumn brown.