In my words, September 2 – 8

South Mountain, PA

Sunday morning I was puzzled by an animal at a distance in the field. At first I thought it was a bird, not the usual crow, but a brown bird whose beak became a sliver of a slinky brown back moving through the grass. “It’s Cachito!” I thought. I’d let the cat out when I sat on the porch to drink coffee and watch the morning. But when Cachito turned his head to look at me, I thought it was a fox, an exciting thought, but also worrisome; I looked around to see where Cachito was. He was gone, and the animal in question, when I looked back, had disappeared, then appeared again, shooting up its head to peer above the grass, motionless, a foraging groundhog, the most common of all.

When I was a kid, this field would have been of corn with its drying September stalks full of grasshoppers and rabbits undercover from the hawks. I wish Dad would let the grass grow like he did the corn; there would be butterflies and wild flowers now, rabbits and foxes; but Dad’s an eighty-eight year old workaholic who goes with his walker to the lawnmower, gets on it and starts the noise—Rmmmm! Rmmmm! Rmmmm!—to mow around the pond, over the paths in the woods, circling around all of the trees in the yard, and the grassy field that used to be corn, mowing into autumn, mowing till the snow falls.

Before the field was corn, it was a forest. I know because I saw it. When my parents moved here, Dad started to chop it down, uncovering as he went along the evidence that others had been there before him: chiseled Indian tools, King George coins, parts of encrusted metal pipes—there are many springs around—and there were mounds, remnants of fires where workers for the ore mines piled hard woods to make charcoal for the iron furnace in Cornwall where cannonballs were made for the Revolutionary War. In the 18th and 19th centuries, Dad says the property probably belonged to a blacksmith who reshod horses and fixed wagon wheels wrecked on the trek between Lancaster and Lebanon over the mountain. I used to imagine, because of the King George coins, a garrison of British soldiers; a tavern with drinking and fiddles, brawls and whores, but a blacksmith was more like it.

A week ago, when it was muggy even early in the morning, I was surrounded by the sounds of insects filling the air with pleasurable electricity. Saturday was chilly. As I watched two cautious deer eat apples under the tree, I could see my breath. The insects continue a little softer, but not yet as indistinct as the figure of the groundhog this morning. I enjoy the whirring cicadas and especially the crickets singing day and night, but most of all I enjoy their choruses together; even when a storm’s approaching with vertical lightning striking the ground, the wind, rain and thunder seem only to encourage them, making them more insistent, swelling amazing crescendos, sharing the moment with the storm.

I’m small. My mother lifts me at the kitchen sink to get a drink and splash my hands. She gives me a jar of iced water to take to my father who is up in the field clearing the land. Over the furrows and past crackling brush fires I go. The tractor in neutral stops but continues running still making its sound—putt putt putt putt—because there is too much work to do. Daddy is sweating just like the jar is.

My father chopped down a forest; Pennsylvania widened a road. The good and the bad happen together—And who can tell one from the other?—as time goes on.

A sonnet at the end of summer.

I let down the umbrella on the dock
enclosing the wasps inside who’ve summered
up in the ribs. I had to do it. Not
only is it sunset but September
the summer is almost over and I
must go back to New York to work to live.
I’m sorry, guys. Unsettled now they fly
around my head, yet still stay off. We lived
let live. They came and went while I below
wrote and read without incident. Black wasps
are curious, not inclined to sting though
walking on your skin. Even now not cross
accepting it as soon they will the cold
back and forth they go settling in new folds.

My father and Sara examine an Indian relic that he found.

These anthills are one of my earliest memories. They were here before I was born. I hope they’re here when I’m gone.

I took this photo of the Pennsylvania sky in 2007, two years before my mother died. It looks the same today. I love the Pennsylvania sky.

Over the field white butterflies flutter
playing and following each other
just like the swallows already flown.


  1. I really like your blog. You have a way with words and make it very interesting. Very clear, bright photos! I enjoyed it very much.

Leave a Reply