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QUINTESSENCE

Summer's Last Song, McDuff


On roadsides,
in fall fields,
in rumpy bunches,
saffron and orange and pale gold...


- from "Goldenrod," Mary Oliver, Blue Iris, 2004

I hiked the bluff trails early this morning breathing in the crisping of the air that in the mountains the coming fall brings to the lingering summer. The trails were absent of a certain joy - absent my dog, McDuff, that sturdy little wheaten Scottie. McDuff passed in December of 2012; the years since marked by the absence of his beautiful presence at my side. Perhaps it's silly to mourn a dog. Perhaps. But today I dedicate my blog post to McDuff, and revisit a post from late summer 2010, when all our trails were still before us.

September 3, 2010:
Yesterday afternoon McDuff and I headed out to the bluff, lulled outdoors by a late afternoon warmth and the pools of mellow light that fell through the trees. As we walked through the wild oat and dried thistle, the hillside around us caught an angle of light in a palette of caramel, dusty tan, and white yellow: the sweetness of summer at its fullest. Fall hovers at the edge of the valley in the crisp mornings and cool nights, but here on the bluff summer holds court.

As we walked, a wordless song played through my thoughts. Duff fell behind, his nose in a rabbit hole. I stopped and stood a moment, looking across the valley. A raven cry drifted up from somewhere near the creek and I was filled with an inexplicable happiness. As if everything truly had its moment, and this moment had now. My thoughts touched on my son and daughter, far away, their lives anchoring down in the new school term at university. I felt the width of time, the slow erasure of geography, the delicate knots and stitches that bind us, one to another.

Here, the final stanzas of Mary Oliver's poem, "Goldenrod" -

I was just minding my own business
when I found myself on their straw hillsides,
citron and butter-colored,

and was happy, and why not?
Are not the difficult labors of our lives
full of dark hours?
And what has consciousness come to anyway, so far,

that is better than these light-filled bodies?
All day
on their airy backbones
they toss in the wind,

they bend as though it was natural and godly to bend,
they rise in a stiff sweetness,
in the pure peace of giving
one's gold away.


May all of you find delight in summer's last song.

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