"I am not bound for any public place, but for ground of my own where I have planted vines and orchard trees, and in the heat of the day climbed up into the healing shadow of the woods. Better than any argument is to rise at dawn and pick dew-wet red berries in a cup." ~Wendell Berry
As we cruise along the canal I see the ragged edges of large, round Butter Burr (Petasites Japonica), browned with age. They remind me of the dirty, torn edges of lace gowns, worn one too many times to the ball.
Passing through a woodland I see Nature's waistcoat glows dully with a more somber green now. Bright scarlet berries serve as buttons to shut away the winds of Autumn. Orange and yellow catch my eye, bright threads building a brocaded pattern as leaves turn against the dying sunlight.
Blackberries glisten in the light, winking at me from clutches of leaves beginning a turn to brilliant red. They call me to slow the boat, reach out and gather them in, hoping I will broadcast their seeds thither and yon as birds do. I will bake them into a blackberry apple crumble redolent with spices of exotic distant lands and hotter climates--cinnamon, clove, fresh lemon zest, Moscovado sugar loaded with black treacle.
As we move along our way Dear Sir keeps his sharp eyes open for wood. As Nature eventually sheds her leafy cloth and hunkers down for winter, the bones of trees killed off by storms or disease are easier to spot along the banks and in the brush.
We've been fortunate to find two trees, cracked off and damaged by high winds, their broken ends protruding from amongst the bracken. Both were easily accessible to us from the towpath side--a rare occurrence as most boaters will confirm!
As Les cuts the damaged limb down, pulls it out and braces it for slicing into rounds which I load on the boat roof, movement overhead catches my eye.
Looking upward six swans swoop and glide overhead, amazing me with their size and grace. Turning, they bank left over a field and drop low to land on the canal--feathers ruffled, giant wings beating the air, orange webbed feet reaching for the liquid landing they seek. Settled, the swans fold their wings behind them, shake their heads and float serenely down the canal, their wake spreading a layer of downed leaves skimming across the surface of the water, summer's sad confetti announcing the party is over for one more year.
Nights are chilly enough now to bank a fire of coal to warm the boat through the night. Wind gusts bend the branches of shrubbery and whisper a warning of winter-a-comin'! The last of the leaves sigh as low as grey clouds scud along above the tired fields of grain-gathered-in for another season.
Nature will gather us in too, her arms large and loafy with abundance; the world is Her apron and life is a cake studded with the fruits of hard work and joy, sweetened with love and laughter, kept from spoiling by the liquor of good will and kindness, frosted with an abiding acceptance of our place in the scheme of things.