Thursday, August 9, 2012


It's late, and my son is outside two stories below my open window aerating the massive pile of wood chips that were deposited — free of charge! — by the tree maintenance company yesterday. I arrived home from work today to a ripe farmy odor emanating from my yard and couldn't for the life of me figure out what it was, and then it dawned on me. Must've been the alfalfa-like scent of it, old memory from the Renton feed store where I bought rabbit feed (not robot, which my fingers seemed to want to type) for my pets, many moons passed.

But three yards of shredded honey-locust in my driveway is impressive, spontaneous combustion aside.

And then there were the hummingbirds, all evening buzzing and chirring out back, perched on apple tree branches, on maple twigs.

And the James Fenimore Cooper book on the railing, hardback, mildew drying up in the summer sun. Part of a set that was a precious possession of my late husband, inadvertently left on the basement floor last winter, and grew spotted with grey mold. Come June I set one volume in the sun to see if the rays would zap that fungus, and it's sat there ever since. Rain, thunder, lightning, fog. This morning a baby squirrel ran to and fro, back and forth over it in a scurry to avoid the sight of me through the glass door. The cats have traversed its engravings.

The most curious thing is that not a soul has asked me anything about it — neither of my sons have so much as mentioned it. As I see it, it makes not a whit of difference whether it's ferreted away safely in a box dark in the basement or exposed and flapping every page to the frivolities and whims of nature on the back deck.

In the end, I suppose we all face the same fate as that pile of simmering mulch whose fragrance now pervades every bit of my olfactory senses.

The hummingbirds are quiet, and so am I.


  1. I'm impressed someone is aerating the pile. Hopefully your aerator will also shovel it into a wheelbarrow and trundle it around to deignated areas to be raked out. What a lot of work.

  2. I've imprisoned a copy of Eugene D. Genovese's The Political Economy of Slavery: Studies in the Economy and the Society of the Slave South (1965) in a plastic bag with baking soda and occasional spritzes of white vinegar in hopes of getting rid of that horrid mildew smell.

    It's been in that bag for most of the summer. I keep forgetting to check it. It may be in that bag forever it looks like.

    Love, C.

  3. What a beautiful post -- I can actually smell it all! The decaying book made me think of a blog post that an artist friend of mine from outside Seattle wrote, over time, about an art project she did. I think she enclosed a book in something and left it out in the elements and photographed its decay and morphing into something quite beautiful. I wonder if you might do something similar?

  4. We're clearing out our attic at the moment with the help of our son and your post made me backpedal and pause again and think about what we're doing here all the time with all those things of our parents and ourselves, sorting out, smelling, remembering, reminiscencing, processing, imagining, watching, deciding... Thanks for sharing yours.
    Love, Eva