Monday, November 9, 2009

On the cusp of locking

Kurt Vonnegut has written that there are actually 6 seasons, not 4. Between fall and winter comes locking, after the leaves have fallen and as the snows begin to bring on the winter quiet; then, between winter and spring we find unlocking, as the snows melt, the ice thaws, and the ground begins to soften for the first shoots of spring. I like this notion, and I've always found locking to be one the most difficult seasons emotionally. Fall has color, and the pleasure of the occasional warm day. Winter brings quiet and, of course, skiing. But locking - it seems to make me think hard thoughts and feel raw edges.

Today Katy and I attended the memorial service for Pat Field, who lived across the street from our first home in Cambridge. The service was in the beautiful Bigelow Chapel at Mt. Auburn Cemetery; after the service itself, we followed a sax player to the family plot, where Pat's ashes will be interred. A reception followed at Pat's home, and for the first time I got to see the interior of the house. It's stunning, full of incredibly elaborate woodwork and fine hand-knotted carpets. It's sad to think of this home, containing over a hundred years of furnishings from Pat's family, being broken up and scattered.

Pat died at home, attended by a great-niece, just weeks after the death of the last of her brothers. I gather the family has its depths; tensions in the family were hinted at in the memorial service. Much food for thought.

I walked home from Pat's and went outside to rake leaves. I've done a lot of raking over the past few weeks. I like raking; it's physical, but not really difficult, it gets me outside, and it has a tangible end point - even if it is a sure sign of the arrival of locking. This afternoon, as the sun was approaching the horizon of the surrounding houses, it lit up the red Japanese maple tree in our front yard, which stubbornly clutches its leaves long after most of the surrounding trees have dropped theirs. I had to take pictures; even these mediocre cell-phone images provide hints of just how lovely this tree is right now.

Here's a view from the other side, looking toward the sun.

Most of the trees, though, are bare by now, like this maple in our back yard.

So this afternoon I declared victory for the season; no more raking, I hope, until spring.


  1. Your post really touched me. I love the concept of locking and unlocking. The locking doesn't really affect me, however, it really affects my husband. Somehow, I feel like the locking is nature going to sleep. And, like us, nature needs its sleep to be its best when it "unlocks". I feel a certain satisfaction putting my garden and lawn to bed for the winter. I feel comfort in the circular motion of the seasons....

  2. I put another 9 bags of leaves out this weekend, so my victory declaration was premature.