Autumn Grey Skies

Autumn grey skies
Draw a curtain
Upon summer’s stage;
An intermission for the parched Earth.

The leaves upon the trees
Rustle in anticipation,
Awaiting the season’s show.

Slowly, the curtain parts.
Drop by drop, the performers arrive,
And the trees give the rain
A standing ovation.

By Hilary Hirtle

bare urban trees after rain

Hilary Hirtle is a freelance writer and editor. She is an avid nature enthusiast and environmental activist. She currently resides in Westerville, Ohio, US.

Photo by Nataliya Gromko

Planting Carrots

I dig my fingers into the earth, raking aside clumps of mud that cling to my gloves, reminding me vaguely of the way wet bread dough sticks to an unfloured surface. No kneading being done here though, just a little excavation happening in a small plot of dirt located directly beneath my living room window. For most of the year, this plot is decorated with fallen leaves from the century-old maple that sprawls above. But this spring, I’m determined to change it into a garden – more specifically, a garden planted with carrots. So the leaves have been raked, the rogue weeds pulled, and I now find myself kneeling upon the ground in what is soon to be the best garden on my street (or so I hope).

woman planting seeds in the vegetable bedI’ve given up on my trowel as it just wasn’t as therapeutic as pulling and digging with my hands, and so I work my fingers into the earth, making three, long rows for my carrot seeds. I scrape aside some unknown plant that has long-since perished and soon come across one of the roots of the maple tree. Anchored steadily into the ground, it snakes endlessly beneath the surface like some gigantic python. A little more digging reveals a lonely tulip bulb. I pull it out and set it aside; I’ll plant that somewhere else.

Ants spill hurriedly from the earth as I continue to dig my rows, scrabbling over one another as they try to get away from the monster that has crashed into their home. A much slower, milky white grub writhes against its discovery, vampire-like in its repulsion at the sun shining upon its glossy body. A robin, red-breasted and twittering, soars down from one of the maple’s branches and lands a few feet away, all eyes on the grub that has begun its slow descent back into the cool dampness of the earth.

I finish digging and sit back to admire my handiwork. All looks good. I tear open the packet of carrot seeds, revealing the surprisingly small, brown seeds that jostle and rattle around, eager to be planted. “An inch deep” listed the instructions for planting and I drop the seeds into the rows, three clusters at a time, before I tuck them in with a blanket of earth and give them a quick shower with the watering can.

A rabbit is watching me from afar, nose twitching in my direction. If my carrots sprout and then disappear, I know who will be to blame. But for now, my seeds stay safely cradled underground. I can imagine them now, snuggling into their earthy bed, anchoring down into their new home with eager roots, awaiting the day when their shoots will sprout to see the sun and become the fully fledged carrots that they are meant to be.

Hilary Hirtle is a freelance writer and editor. She is an avid nature enthusiast and environmental activist. She currently resides in Westerville, OH.

Photo by Denis And Yulia Pogostins

A Walk Through the Park

white tailed deer fawn with spots in a field of wildflowersIt was one of those hot afternoons – the kind where the heat seems to cling to you like a blanket, covering you in your own sticky sweat. It was beautifully sunny though, and I found myself strolling along in the cool shade of the trees in the local park. The place was completely deserted of humankind, as most people had sensibly chosen to stay in air-conditioned spaces. The animals were taking advantage of this rare absence of human life, though. Sweet melodies of songbirds trilled loudly from the cool shade of the forest canopy, a squirrel sat atop the stump of a dead tree, teeth gnashing against a much coveted acorn, bees whizzed past on their invisible highways, and chipmunks darted to and fro, no doubt preparing for the oncoming winter, something that seemed nothing short of a fairytale in this heat.

I continued along the path, which led out of the overhang of trees and into a grassy area that on most days was crowded with soccer players and picnicking families, but was now taken over by small yellow and white butterflies that floated effortlessly through the humid air around me. The forest was now adjacent to the path I walked and the sun beat fully down upon my face. A little trickle of sweat dripped down my forehead and my bangs drooped, leading strands of my brown hair to momentarily cover my eyes. I hastily brushed them away and continued walking. It wasn’t long before they drooped again, blinding me once more. Luckily, I had come prepared and slipped a hair tie around my hair, binding the strands back from my face. I continued walking until, once more, I saw a flick of brown out of the corner of my eye.

Really? I thought to myself as I reached up once more to brush away the hair from my face, but there wasn’t a stray strand to be found. The brown blur however, was still there, visible out of the corner of my eye. Wondering what it was, I turned and there, peeping out of a tangle of bushes at the edge of the forest, was a fawn. Small and brown, with white spots dappled across its back, its bright, black eyes surveyed me as it swiveled its ears in my direction. The two of us stood there, staring at each other and then, moving its spindly legs awkwardly through the high tangle of brush that it stood within, the fawn clambered out of its forest shelter and trotted towards me. Shocked, I stepped backward as it came to a halt in the grass a mere ten feet away, its white, fluffy tail erect, its ears and nose twitching excitedly in my direction.

I was rooted to the spot, not sure whether I should try to shoo it away, or just turn and walk on. A large part of me wanted to go up and pet the fawn, but I refrained; this was a wild animal and one positive interaction with a human could very likely become a death sentence for it in the future. I remained where I was, still and silent, taking in this extraordinary moment as I gazed upon this sweet little creature, so new to the world and so curious about all of its wonders. The fawn made a movement as though to come closer, but stopped, turning its head in the direction of the brush whence it had come. There was a moment’s pause and then, with a flick of its tail, the fawn sprung back into the forest and was once more lost to the gloom of the trees.

I didn’t move, still processing this surreal encounter that had happened so quickly that it hardly seemed real. I finally broke myself out of my reverie and continued on my way down the path, glancing back over my shoulder, so sure that somewhere in the brush behind me, were the bright, curious eyes of the fawn, watching me continue on my walk through the park.

Hilary Hirtle is a freelance writer and editor. She is an avid nature enthusiast and environmental activist. She currently resides in Westerville, OH.

Photo by Betty Shelton