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Birds & Leaves

Photo: © Carol Bergman, 2018. The River-to-Ridge Trail in New Paltz, NY, funded by the Open Space Institute and the Mohonk Preserve with additional support from the Butler Conservation Fund.

Mid-October has arrived and we await a vivid autumn. Leaves are dry and falling. The migrating birds are gone. Only the hawks, kestrels, falcons and sparrows remain. And the crows and the turkey vultures. The other day, as I was getting into my car, one such turkey vulture flew low overhead, circling and circling. The wind and scent (can birds smell?) had carried it towards our garbage area, I think. Perhaps all the decaying apples in the orchard across the street had been eaten by the deer who are thin and hungry. It’s bear and deer hunting season. We all wear bright colors, dogs their neon vests. Last weekend on the new River-to- Ridge Trail, a man stopped to tell me about a local bear who had lumbered across his path. They had met before, knew each other so to speak. His dog went tense, he said, otherwise the encounter was a peaceful one.

Living so close to nature these days, I am more aware of the environment, its continuing joys and struggles. Conflicting narratives disturb me greatly as there is no argument that we are, as Al Gore says, in a global environmental emergency. My last post admonished my readers—and myself—not to despair and quoted Rebecca Solnit’s positive article. I reiterate her message, and mine: not to despair. But I have moved into a different enivronmental space and my awareness and concern has shifted. So, too, the subjects I want to write about.

Two days in the city this week, rides on the crowded subways with all its rich diversity, and my NYU class, was a different kind of stimulation, a different kind of mulching and gathering of ideas, thoughts and emotions. My students are doing well, as expected, working on interesting stories. They are all interesting people. And the drama on the subways often makes me smile, from a bit of a distance, perhaps, as I am no longer a New Yorker, or maybe I always will be in my heart and soul. Thursday morning on the way to meet my cousin for an art crawl at MOMA, I was on a #1 train when a crowd of boisterous women, one carrying a huge trophy, entered. “I’ve never won anything,” she said as she plopped next to me. “Megyn Kelly gave me a trophy.” I don’t watch the TODAY show so I couldn’t parse the context, but the woman was gloriously happy, beautifully made-up, oh so very happy. She got out of her seat and burst into a gospel song, joined by her entourage, and then blessed the whole train—everyone—rich and poor, black and white, indigenous and immigrant—and asked us to join in because Jesus is good and protecting all of us and wishing all of us the best. And though I am not a Christian, I accept all blessings from anyone who wants to bestow them on me, and thanked her.

We all have our own cathedrals, material and spiritual, secular and religious. We all await a vivid autumn.

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