Walk through the pastures on misty fall mornings and distant shapes that the logical mind knows to be simply tufts of tall grass take on ghostly forms that spoof the shapes of man or beast.
One chilly morning as I walked with Ike across the field, I saw in the distance a man crouched against the thick, notched trunk of the hackberry tree. He wore a brimmed hat and heavy coat and wide pants. I felt my heart thudding hard in my chest. I kept my eyes on the gray form, anticipating his stealthy climb down from his hiding place, my legs ready to break into a sprint. But he remained motionless. The dog seemed unconcerned so I continued my walk, looking over and back as I rounded the pasture. The man never moved. The next day the stranger was back, except that in the bright light of a clear morning, the man was just a bent trunk of the same tree.
In early fall, drifts of lovegrass blow across the fields and gather in the low spots. They pile up like airy, slightly pink snow or find their way into our house, piggybacking on the dogs or on our shoes. Thick cobwebs, strung low in the grass or spun like cotton around faded wildflowers become starkly visible, lit up by the string lights of raindrops.
The still-green pasture is punctuated by swathes of brassy ginger and pitch: the bending stalks of little bluestem and desiccated ragweed. The spiny, tarnished silver of dead thistle wear white mats of sodden seeds – the ones that failed to take to the summer wind in time – clumped together like wet hair.
After a stroll, our wet boots are covered in tawny specks of seeds so we walk through the shallow puddles of rainwater formed in the dips of the driveway. Swirls of brown follow our steps and slowly resettle.
This year the twig girdlers have pruned our winged elms, leaving neatly sawn foot-long branches scattered over the lawn and along the edges of the woods. Tear-shaped leaves of burnt umber still cling to the twigs. There, along the crisp edges of the branches, the larvae will overwinter, waiting for the flush of spring to continue their life cycle. The only remedy to this destruction is to gather the twigs in a pile and set the pile alight.
By mid-October the hummingbirds have gone but we are slow to return the feeders to winter storage in case a hungry straggler is late crossing the plains. The scissortail flycatchers have long since gone, and the meadowlarks plaintive trill no longer echoes in the pastures. We hear instead the cry of hawks high above our heads. The steadfast bluebird remains, but is reclusive and quiet in the winter months. The goldfinches and purple finches return to the feeders, their bright summer colors faded. The tiny, curious wrens with their spastic flicking tails no longer hop through the clematis vines or along the back porch. In their place come the downy woodpecker and a showy crowd of cedar waxwings that stay only long enough to plunder what berries they can find.
Find more from Bluestem on her blog: Unrefined Vegan