Night vision is a practiced skill: as with writing, one's proficiency improves with use. These days when I flick off the kitchen light and step out into the pre-dawn darkness, my immediate reaction is always the same: how can I go out walking when I can't see the hand in front of my face? But despite my blindness, I grope down the three porch steps. The first image that I am able to distinguish through the darkness is a sheen, a faint reflection of gray in the puddled water on our driveway. I glance up to check the sky. Muddy with clouds, a few stars glow: Cassiopeia directly overhead, Orion to the west. Maybe this wan light helps my eyes to adjust because when I come back to earth, I can make out the shape of the big hemlock next to the road, the swoop of our dirt drive.
My route through the woods is not a trail but merely a well-trampled path. I locate it as much by sound and feel as by sight: if I step off the beaten track, twigs crack under the rubber soles of my duck boots and the ground beneath becomes uneven and rough. I walk this same route every morning but it always surprises: today a horizontal white pine sapling, as big around as a thigh and waist-high, blocks my progress. Last night's heavy winds must have broken this tree off at the base. I grope my way around it by touch.
Every passing minute brings a fraction more daylight to the dawn, a fraction more resolution to my sight, but night vision -- again like writing -- is chimerical. Its focus extends only about twenty feet in any direction: the world beyond is enveloped in gray shadow. But it's not only distance that's obscured: in low light the human eye has difficulty focusing on the immediate: what's directly in front of one's face is often completely invisible. The thinner an object, the more elusive it becomes. This phenomenon is even more apparent in moonlight where the contrast between the colorless reflected light and its shadows produces an almost manic startle as objects pop into focus an instant before I collide with them.
My morning route threads among white pines and honeysuckle bushes, climbing toward the big field. Here, the world overhead opens and I see stars again, more distinct now since the nighttime humidity has condensed into dew. As I push through the knee-high grass, periodically I run my fingers along a blade to test if the white bloom is dew or, on this cold morning, a hoar of frost. Last week was our first, patchy frost. I had never before noticed that in the big field was a low spot: a quarter acre bowl barely a foot beneath the level of the rest of the field. But that depression was apparently deep enough to concentrate the cold night air and cup it into a circle of frost. The depression is now delineated as precisely as if it had been surveyed: the pods of all the milkweed plants that were frosted have burst open and white fluff flocks the depression, while the rest of the field is still green with late growth.
Fall is a progression of loss. The morning and evening hours of daylight, the warmth of summer, insects, birds, leaves: one by one, they bleed away. Life slows. Honeybees work the few remaining goldenrod blossoms, carrot-scented and perky yellow in the fading fields. Spider webs hang heavily beaded with morning dew, hopeful yet ineffectual in the new, bug-less cold. The harvest moon grows fat as the last fruits ripen: deer prowl under apple trees, wild turkeys scratch for beech nuts. Wood ducks flock together on small farm ponds, their abbreviated wing beats in flight seeming a little more hurried now than during the random days of summer.
I anticipate each lost and when it arrives I explore it, relish it, hold it up for acknowledgement and admiration and, yes, even for worship. Because it is this progression that gives fall its beauty. After the overripe stagnation of summer, I am awed by fall's daily changes even while acknowledging that the end result -- the dead gray cold of November, the frozen soul of winter -- is every bit as undesirable as the sullen lethargy of August. But every year my heart is stirred to an emotion that's as true and enduring as any human love, aroused by the cedar-scented warmth of a wool sweater, the dark brown, lemony steam of black walnuts simmering on the stove, the crackle of the first wood fire, and the strap-shaped, golden petals on witch hazel trees.
Causes Louise Young Supports
articulation of indigenous rights (organization: Cultural Survival)
sustainable, renewable, and independent energy sources