Mudsock Heights

Mudsock Heights

The View from Mudsock Heights: The Change of Seasons Reminds Us We Need to Change Our Spirits, Too

By Dennis E. Powell | Posted at 4:51 AM

It was the first gray, windy, wintry day, a day that could be in November or February. Such days can chill one to the bone, physically but spiritually, too.

The kind of day, it was, that reminds us that much of nature shuts down for months each year.

On such days, we must dig deep to find hope; the promise of a brighter tomorrow is not always as close as we’d wish.

The wind blew leaves that had never bothered to festoon themselves in autumn finery, changing directly from green to the same brown-gray that possessed the day and put the world into monochrome gloom.

Looking at the calendar, it was impossible to miss the speed with which the weeks were passing. No time to savor them, none at all, it seemed.

So many things didn’t get done this year.

I didn’t cut much firewood, but I think there’s enough windfall in the woods to take care of things. A lot of it came down in the spring, and last year.

Not enough time was spent on the porch swing. Some of that had to do with the unusual population of stinging insects, but it would have been good to have devoted a little more time to just ponderin’. When it turns chill and gray, ponderin’ doesn’t always take one where one wants to go; better to do that in the spring and summer. The happiest times I’ve had, I’ve had on that swing. It needs a new coat or two of finish, I see. Don’t know if I want to paint over those happy moments, though.

I think about all those projects that I had energy to plan, but fell short in the doing. Well, they’ll still be there come spring, I suppose.

The garden, such as it was, needs to be turned under in hope of a better harvest next year. Still …

The woodstove hasn’t been fired up yet this season, making everything warm and safe inside, cozy, sitting and talking or reading. But it will be.

The months especially devoted to friends and family and the family we make for ourselves are ahead. This is important when it turns cold outside.

Night lowers earlier now. Dawn comes later. Friendly nature seems less so.

Moving the house plants inside was more of a chore than I thought it would be. They grew this year, even if the tomatoes didn’t. The ponytail plant still puzzles me.

Two decades ago I bought a little ponytail plant, the ball where it enters the soil the size of a golfball. It went with me from place to place, always growing, until I moved here. There was no way to bring it halfway across country, and, besides, it had grown to nine feet tall and my ceilings here wouldn’t allow it. I gave it to friends who had a tall entryway. Last time I was there, it wasn’t, so I suppose it went the way of all plants.

When I got here, one of the first things I did was buy a little ponytail plant, its ball the size of a golfball. It has grown — the ball is now the size of a muskmelon — but it hasn’t gotten much taller. There must be different varieties of ponytail plant.

We had a pineapple sometime in the spring and, as a lark, I stuck the cut-off top onto a pot of dirt. I figured it would probably just dry up and die, but when I brought the plants in, on that gray, wintry day last week, I saw new growth. The thing took root! Maybe we’ll harvest an Ohio-grown pineapple some day.

Populating the house with plants is the second-most-important thing I know of in the autumn. Plants help keep the humidity at a comfortable level, they keep the air cleaner, and they are good for our souls. Everyone should have something to look after.
Maybe that’s why our Creator made us.

But that’s just the second-most-important thing. The most important thing in autumn ought to be obvious to us, but we too often push it away. Autumn tells us of the cycles of life. The blooming flower meets the first frost, and it is hard to remember that come spring it will bloom again. So it is with us. The most important thing, always, is to let those we care about know that we care about them. Every day, always; never let it go unsaid. Autumn tells us this, maybe this autumn more than most. The summer never quite arrived, and it looks as if the fall finery this year will be lacking. The things that we come to expect are not always certain. There is a wonderful old Jewish saying, “Men plan and God laughs.” This is not out of meanness, I think. It is to remind us of what really is ours, what we really can count upon. That would be each other.

Life can be fragile, but love is strong.

Dennis E. Powell is crackpot-at-large to Open for Business. Powell was an award-winning reporter in New York and elsewhere before moving to Ohio and becoming a full-time crackpot. You can reach him at