Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Seasons in Charlottesville in words and pictures

We are enjoying the change of seasons in Charlottesville, and the seasons are distinct. It is definitely turning colder. It feels to me like we are on the cusp in between autumn and winter. 

Last Friday Lori and I enjoyed the walk up the footpath to Monticello, a five-mile round trip. The trail was slick from a rain the night before and the clouds drizzled a bit as we walked. The trees are golden now, with more leaves mulching on the ground than hanging on the branches. We saw a squirrel scrapping out the innards of what looked to us like a coconut shell, but how such a shell came to Virginia we have no idea. Perhaps it was from some exotic Southern tree about which we have not yet become acquainted? Maybe the squirrel knows of a secret grove of coconuts planted by Jefferson himself?

At the top of the hill is Jefferson's home and a stunning new visitor's center that caters to tourists and hikers alike. Here are photos (and, no, we did not get locked in), and a seasonal poem that seems to fit the day, sent to us from our dear friend Karen in Tennessee. 

After the Rain

by Anthony Hecht


The barbed-wire fences rust

As their cedar uprights blacken

After a night of rain.

Some early, innocent lust

Gets me outdoors to smell

The teasle, the pelted bracken,

The cold, mossed-over well,

Rank with its iron chain,


And takes me off for a stroll.

Wetness has taken over.

From drain and creeper twine

It’s runnelled and trenched and edged

A pebbled serpentine

Secretly, as though pledged

To attain a difficult goal

And join some important river.


The air is a smear of ashes

With a cool taste of coins.

Stiff among misty washes,

The trees are as black as wicks,

Silent, detached and old.

A pallor undermines

Some damp and swollen sticks.

The woods are rich with mould.


How even and pure this light!

All things stand on their own,

Equal and shadowless,

In a world gone pale and neuter,

Yet riddled with fresh delight.

The heart of every stone

Conceals a toad, and the grass

Shines with a douse of pewter.


Somewhere a branch rustles

With the life of squirrels or birds,

Some life that is quick and right.

This queer, delicious bareness,

This plain, uniform light,

In which both elms and thistles,

Grass, boulders, even words,

Speak for a Spartan fairness,


Might, as I think it over,

Speak in a form of signs,

If only one could know

All of its hidden tricks,

Saying that I must go

With a cool taste of coins

To join some important river,

Some damp and swollen Styx .


Yet what puzzles me the most

Is my unwavering taste

For these dim, weathery ghosts,

And how, from the very first,

An early, innocent lust

Delighted in such wastes,

Sought with a reckless thirst

A light so pure and just.

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