Land Journal: September 2013

In August 2013 I moved to Plainfield, Massachusetts, to the foot of Deer Hill/West Mountain, on the edge of the valley of the Westfield River. The journal below is my story of getting to know my new home: the land that stretches up the side of the mountain behind my house.

September 30, 2013:

Gold and purple clouds off to the east at sunrise, the gold becoming brighter but more concentrated as the sun gets close to the horizon. At last, a single spark of light shining through the trees at the horizon announces the arrival of the sun for the day; then the blaze of glory. The leaves hang motionless in the gathering light until just at sunrise a breeze sweeps through the woods setting everything in motion: the light of the sun has called up the wind, but just for a moment and then stillness returns.

September 29, 2013:

A glorious fall morning: brilliant yellow leaves against a bright blue sky, dry leaves rustling underfoot, floating on my back in the pond amongst all the leaves, watching a new leaf twirling down through the air towards me and towards the water.

September 28, 2013:

A clear, almost still morning. Up on the mountain where I watch the sunrise, looking up at the treetops, the leaves appear to be completely motionless. Down closer to the ground the leaves and even the ferns all around me are moving every so slightly: vibrating in the gentlest of breezes. It seems like there’s a soft current of air moving through the forest, sliding up or down the mountain, I can’t tell which.

My perch for watching the sunrise is at the edge of a fern patch, on the edge of a small ridge, partway up the mountain behind my house. I sit at the top of a steep rise, almost a cliff, but not enough of one to create a broad open view. I just have little window out through the trees to the east, enough to see the ridgeline across the valley, over which the sun rises. This morning the sky is clear and the sun comes blazing up over the ridge.

Back in the deep forest, away from my sunrise perch, everything is still. There’s not a hint of a breeze. But I do hear the pattering of something falling to the ground. I’ve heard this before many times. It sounds like rain but the sky overhead shows not a hint of clouds. I’ve thought it might be leaves falling, but I can’t see any leaves falling and I can hear it even in a hemlock stand where there are not many leaves to fall. I thought maybe it was some sort of small insect dropping out of the trees but I can’t see anything falling. Today I tried lying down to present more area for whatever is falling to land on so I can feel it and figure out what it is. Once or twice I felt something that hit with the coolness of a tiny drop of water, but even then I couldn’t find a water droplet on my skin. At one point the sun catches what looks to be a rain of mist-fine droplets water falling to the forest floor. I think I am seeing the dew falling and hearing the drops of dew falling from the trees to the forest floor.

September 27, 2013:

Blue sky overhead but thick clouds off to the east so the day arrived gently and quietly rather than in a blaze of sudden glory. The blue jays made up for this, sending their raucous calls through the forest, possibly calling out a warning of my presence. One gave a knocking sort of call that I’d never heard before, as I was standing knee deep in the pond; flying down to a closer branch, maybe to get a better look at me, before heading back off into the woods. At the stream, just a little water is coming over the top of the log that marks the top of my tiny swimming hole. A few weeks ago all the water was slipping under and behind this log, so the stream has come up just a little. It hasn’t rained all that much recently, but as fall settles in the trees are starting to draw less water up to their leaves so there’s more water to come down the stream.

September 26, 2013:

It’s a still, cloudy morning. At six the waning half moon high overhead was bright and sharp, so it’s not a thick layer of clouds, but enough to hide the sun at sunrise. The underside of the clouds was briefly brilliant pink as the sun got close to rising. Leaves are turning yellow throughout the forest, but walking in the forest the dominant leaf color is still green. Looking at the far hillside reveals more yellows and reds at the tops of the trees.