Artistry of the Wind

Artistry of the Wind

Today’s autumn wind blew in gusts,1024px-Maple_leaf_on_a_fence
lifting piles of golden leaves,
depositing them in patterns
along the thirty-foot chain link fence,
now a painted canvas,
leaves lodged between wire frames–
gold leaf filigree.

This art won’t last,
its beauty ephemeral like all things beautiful.
Tomorrow it will be just a fence,
visual art gone,
the memory enough.

by Barbara Flass

Photo by Siddharth Mallya (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0
(, via Wikimedia Commons


What if Thanksgiving makes me grumpy?


 I know there is much to be thankful for.  We are constantly urged to focus on giving thanks this month (in spite of the stores filled all too early with Christmas decorations and sparkly trees).  But after a few months of mixed blessings, how does a normally negative, depressed person find joy in November?

 Autumn was beautiful this year, as always, with some warm temperatures adding to it all.  Cloud formations against muted blues, brilliant orange and yellow leaves cascading to the ground, sun glinting off the colors—what’s not to be grateful for?

 Well, in spite of it all, negativity can creep its little feet into the joy.

 In September we had to put my beloved Aussie to sleep.  Autumn walks in the park crunching on leaves, checking out the waterfall and the creek with Murphy by my side ended with unbearable grief.  October should be a good month for me, especially this year, my tenth as a breast cancer survivor.  At the five year mark, my family bought me a laptop.  Five years was a milestone for me, but so elusive for my sister.  On October 30 ten years ago, I had my surgery.  On October 31, I came home to spend Halloween with both my daughters, a rare event since they are never together anymore for various reasons.  This year we had only a few trick-or-treaters, leaving us with bags of our favorite candy.  Okay, there is something to be grateful for, to say nothing of a ten-year survival of breast cancer.  I didn’t do any charitable walks this year like I usually do.  October brought other issues for me.  My quiet appreciation for surviving ten years was overshadowed by an attack of shingles, bringing a new meaning to my understanding of pain.   I know.  There is a preventive shot for that.  I planned to get it at my yearly exam.  Oops, too late!

 There have been times in the past when I was asked to rate my pain on a scale of 1 to 10.  How silly was I not to know what a 10 really is!  I do now.  Weeks of excruciating pain, rash, itch, blisters on my right arm and total loss of feeling in my right hand made me aware of what real pain is.  Unfortunately, four doctors missed the diagnosis, even though I was sure it was shingles.  When my doctor finally acknowledged it, it was a little late for the anti-viral to really work.  So I may be left with months or more of arm pain and hand numbness.

 So now I really do feel a little ungrateful about life.   I am hosting Thanksgiving dinner this year.  I will have my youngest daughter and her husband and my two granddaughters here from Los Angeles, along with my daughter’s in-laws and possibly my niece and her family.  My oldest daughter will be alone in Phoenix, working that day.  I will spend part of the day with my mother in the nursing home, a mother coping with increasing problems with dementia and delusions.  I am thankful I still have her, but her quality of life is diminishing every week.

 So now November is here with its chill and occasional flurries and an early onslaught of holiday stress.  I am sometimes annoyed by the chirpiness of happy people.  I never know if they are real or not.  Are they just pretending to be happy?  What is the point of that?  Do they make those little trees out of branches for the dining room table on Thanksgiving?  Do they cut out little construction paper leaves for everyone to write down what they are thankful for and then do they attach them to the tree so while eating turkey and stuffing and mashed potatoes everyone can look up now and then and feel so grateful for it all?

 I could be one of those, I guess.  I could make that tree and those leaves and revel in gratitude because I do know somewhere deep in my heart I have a lot to be grateful for.  But whiner and complainer that I am, I am annoyed by the arm pain and the inability to use a pair of scissors to continue to make my cards for cancer patients.  I am left-handed, but wouldn’t you know, when you are little and learning to do things, teachers think you can use scissors like a right-handed person.  It wasn’t until I became an adult that I discovered there are actually left-handed scissors!  I could have learned to use them when I was a child and I could now be cutting paper and shapes for my cards.

 There are some perks to my numb hand.  My husband does a little more for me.  A little.  I worry that I won’t be able to create that mythical Thanksgiving meal where the food tastes good and the gravy isn’t lumpy and the cranberry sauce doesn’t jiggle on the plate and the pumpkin pie isn’t too brown or too runny.  In some other world, my Thanksgiving could be great if someone other than a true pessimist and grump wasn’t in charge of it.

 As I look out my window this morning, the sun is shining on the golden leaves of the tree across the street, and leaves are gracefully fluttering to the ground.  My sister will not be here with me this Thanksgiving, as she has not been for the last eight years.  She would be loving the colorful trees, happy to experience another Thanksgiving, able to overlook anything burned or curdled or tasteless, and just love being with family.  Okay, I say to myself.  Stop the wallowing in pity.  Hug your grandchildren. Enjoy the smells filling the house.  Embrace the chaos.  And even though my ten-year-survival date passed everyone else by, reach into my heart and be grateful for life, even if there is pain, even if there is loneliness, even if there is fatigue and stress and anxiety over the coming holidays, and take a moment to let all the good stuff in because there will always be good stuff and it will always be stronger than anything negative in life.

Image by Philip Martin

October Afternoon

October Afternoon

October afternoon with the sun’s rays
strong upon a cluster of brilliantly luminescent red-gold trees,
light seeming to glow from within each leaf,
it’s peak time in upstate New York.

One tree stands far apart from the others,
stripped of all its beauty with the exception of one branch,
even more striking in its aloneness, its disparity and exclusion
from the surrounding autumnal displays of glory.

Losing does not indicate weakness here but pride.
“One does not give up until it’s time,” it seems to say.
Surviving recent strong winds and heavy rain,
this one branch hangs on for one more day
until one leaf after another will drop,
leaving behind a strong trunk and roots that will herald new life come spring.

Whispering in the wind, it softly states,
“Beauty is not in what was lost but in what remains.”

Snow Fell Too Early in Upstate New York

Before the first frost iced the few remaining garden flowers, before the maple leaves could finish changing from green to red and orange, before Halloween was over with its smashed pumpkins and toilet paper tree décor, snow fell in upstate New York.  It was far too early and not exactly as predicted, since our local meteorologists forecast snow mainly in the higher elevations.  So now I feel a little more unsure about the next predicted storm tomorrow afternoon into Sunday, one of those coastal storms that occur usually after Thanksgiving and sometimes not even before Christmas.

The thing is, I really like the first snowfall of the year.  I like the way the snow weighs down the pine branches, forming a canopy over the roads.  I like when the sun shines on the powdery surfaces of the ground and sparkles the edges of the pines.

But I’m not ready.  I’m not ready to let go of autumn just as I was beginning to enjoy the falling leaves, the pumpkin patches, and the apple crop.  The stores seem to be ready, however, having displayed Christmas trees and ornaments during the last few weeks.  I don’t know why we rush the seasons.  I don’t know why we don’t get to immerse ourselves completely in each one before the next arrives.  I don’t like being unprepared.

Still, I’m not going to put my wreath on the front door or buy my Christmas cards yet.  I’m not going to be drawn in to the beautiful ornaments adorning the trees in Michaels or A.C. Moore or Macy’s or the malls.  I have yet to think about a turkey for Thanksgiving and I have no idea where my snow brush is or my scraper.  I would rather sit looking out my sliding glass doors at the squirrels racing around the garden and the woodpeckers searching for bugs in the dead pine trees.  I like watching the snow melt into the still-soft ground, uncovering the leaves waiting expectantly to be raked up into piles.  I long for autumn to linger a while.  I want it to rage against the onslaught of winter snow and icy mornings.  I want to hear the crunch of leaves under my feet and smell the first smoky fires from neighborhood chimneys.  I want to hold tightly on to the remaining October days before I am thrown headlong into the frenzy of the holidays.  I am not ready yet for winter in New York.