What is seen in a season of darkness

1. Twenty finches cluster at the top of a dying maple. They drop like falling leaves, flutter to another bare tree, then drop and move on in an elaborate dance the logic of which I do not understand.

2. Sixteen turtle doves blow in from the west. Two station themselves in the dying maple and watch while the others eat the oil seeds you’ve scattered on the ground beneath the Austrian pine. After several minutes the watchers decide that there is no danger—the hawk must be elsewhere—and they too descend to feed.

3. When we go for a walk the water in the cove is still and full of light, a mirror thick with white clouds. Here the forest above the shore and below the shore, and there the clouds, streaming across both water and sky.

4. We are seized by the yellow light of the fading afternoon: the way the islands flame before the setting sun. Here is winter, but there is light.

5. The moon reveals itself as we walk, a half round growing fat.

6. Orion leaps out of the south and drifts west, like the wind that battered the islands all day. The surge still echoes in the bay.

7. When the sun drops it falls so fast the darkness is surprising, as if I’d blinked and it was suddenly there: expected, welcome, but still taking me unaware.

8. I visit my fallen woodpile by the studio, the tumbled logs splayed in a beautiful arrangement of angles and lines. Some other day, not today, I will pick them up.

9. Everything conspires to make me feel tired—the arrival of the morning, the gurgle of the sea, the fleeting of the day. Then there is the beauty of the fire, the dog asleep before it, and the lights on the tree; these things are so lovely I can hardly look at them. I turn my head, peer aslant. What do I see then, when I am hardly looking? And of what unbearable loss am I afraid?

10. Now nearly asleep, bitter tea beside me and a mohair blanket on my knees. The dog settles on my feet. Only lying in bed can keep me awake, as if potential were all I longed for.

11. I close my eyes and dream about markets, gleaming stacks of fruit, arrays of oysters, sprays of green onions, surging crowds. Who are all these people in this year when I have seen almost no one?

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