On the weathered gray barn a rusty vane swings with the wind, barely stands out against molting trees, a ghost of former, livelier, times. Evening chill invades the air, and the barn’s gray blends increasingly with the grays of sky and bare branches beyond. Gray.
A moon is rising, a silver sliver, looking worn. Waning light, nearly vanished. Waning. Worn.
Ripe apple smell fills the night air. Ripe.
It’s the time of growing silence, when summer bird babble disappears, leaving only crow croak and blue jay squawk, and, of course, the cackle of hens.
Even all that is stilled now, and the only continued singing is the chirp of crickets scavenging leftover crops in frost-melted gardens.
I stand at my study window, gazing out at the fading color, fading activity, fading life, scene of growing grayness—and I think of my own growing grayness, and the ebbing of my own earth-life. Fading.
I am jolted out of my mind-wandering by a “sping! sping! sping-sping!” followed by a tinkling avalanche of tumbling paper clips. My languid elbow has unknowingly brushed the boxful from the sill, onto the wooden floor. My eye catches the last few bounces, and I feel, well, embarrassed.
That’s what I get for idle mind-wandering—and not picking up after myself. Time to come back to the moment inside and play One-Hundred Clip Pick-up. I sit down on, rather than stoop or squat over, the shiny floor still smelling of fresh polish, and make the odious task leisurely, by plucking a few at a time between fingers, rather than trying to sweep the lot into my hand all at once.
The elder years can teach us such wisdom, if we let them: Experience says such hurry might only result in discomfort requiring time and pain to dislodge. The floor may be shiny, but it’s old and worn, too.
A rustle of dry leaves outside draws me back up to the window. It’s coming from right down there beneath the apple tree. I strain my eyes in the dusk to see what wraithlike creature is moving through the yard. Ah, as I thought, deer. Three, actually. A big one and two adolescents. I wonder how old the mother is, how many twins she’s born, if her bearing years have ended. I watch as she raises her head, alert, and glances around to detect danger to her own, then bends to grab a bite of apple falls herself. I bend to grab the rest of the paper clips.
A leather journal lies on the desk where I pull open the drawer to deposit clips in their proper place. It’s mine, from back…when? I flick on the lamp and open the cover to see.
Can it be? Twenty-one years ago I started this account of days—and days—and days! How many? Let’s see: twenty times 365… around eight thousand? No, more: for before this journal, so many other days, their thoughts and feelings. Nine, ten, maybe eleven thou! Quite a stash locked in that file cabinet—till I’m gone and someone going through this room, clearing out all useless debris (like these journals) unlocks and reads whatever they like—if they want to bother, which they probably won’t anyhow, just because of the overwhelming number. If this one journal alone were left, it would probably get sequestered, read and reread, and receive all manner of interpretation…
Now there’s something to consider. If I left behind one that might give a blessing, a lesson, a legacy, which—out of all that motley collection could I choose? From the covers I can guess (or remember) nothing of the contents’ value. I suspect there’s as much substance beneath the cheap black cover as behind this fine leather one. Worse yet, I suspect there’s little substance in any.
The graying of autumn outside, the graying of the woman inside, the sweep of chill wafting through the window I’ve neglected to crank shut (but now shall!), the evening’s growing darkness, are giving me the feel of a cinder in my eye: a tear-maker, irritant, pain demanding attention. “So attend to it,” my will and heart tell my mind. And so I shall; I must.
The sky’s remaining background light turns barn into great hulking silhouette. A final cackle of hens from the coop announces the place is not abandoned… yet.
Nor am I finished growing my accumulation of written days. Or growing.
[Note: This post isn’t what I’d planned to publish today, but cleaning out computer files brought it to light— and it fit so well with the first two posts on the Aging with Grace theme (here, and here), I thought I ought to edit and place it here. Next week (probably!), “Lesson from the Seasonal Blues” or, “On Endings and Beginnings.”]