Saturday, September 13, 2014

Chanson d'Automne

The other day, while leaving work, I watched as this single deer made her way alongside the access road. Browsing in the long grass without a care in the world. At least three cars stopped to watch her. I too partook of this chance to commune with nature.

Aquidneck Island, which is officially named Rhode Island and from which Little Rhody takes part of her name*, is an island of contrasts. The western side, being very built up and commercialized, is very urban, yet still has large tracts of open land. The eastern side is very open, very rural in spots. Driving through those areas you would think that each was in its own world, completely separate from each other and not on the same island.

We have two main roads spanning the length of the island (more or less), West Main Road and East Main Road. Where I work is off West Main. It's a lovely campus which, due to a lack of business, is slowly getting sold off, a piece at a time.

There are four buildings on this campus. Operations are slowly being consolidated into just one building, the largest of the four and the one where I have toiled this past 15 years. (Well, except for the three years when I was "in exile" at two of our northern facilities.)

Now this campus is host to a rather sizeable population of white tail deer (the lady in the opening photo being one of that herd). Lording it over the 20-30+ herd is a rather magnificent buck. He's a good size lad by New England standards. Sometimes you can see him, back in those trees, staying under cover but maintaining a watchful vigil.

The Campus as seen from West Main
Google Maps - Google Street View

A quick glance at that photo and you can see that it's a lovely environment for a small herd of deer. Trees for cover, lots of underbrush and plenty of wide open spaces for grazing. As it's fenced in with no public access, it's very secluded.

Best of all (for the deer) there are no predators. Usually.

I say "usually" because last year our security folks found that someone had cut a hole in the chain link perimeter fence. They postulated that it was to get at the deer.

I wonder if the fellow (or fellows) who did that realized that breaking and entering into a facility that does defense work for the government could be viewed as terrorism or espionage? Probably not. But can you imagine their chagrin if they were caught and charged, not with poaching in a state court, but espionage in a Federal court?

But the point of this post is not about poachers potentially "going up the river**" after being charged and convicted as spies. No, it's about Fall.

Seeing deer out in the open on our campus is something normally seen around dawn and dusk. As the days get shorter, the closer dawn and dusk come to approximating the times I get to and depart from work. (In late December it's not unknown to go to work in the dark and then go home in the dark. If you work in a computer lab, as I do, you can go days without actually seeing the sun!)

So seeing that deer reminded me that Fall is fast upon us. While officially the autumnal equinox is not for another 10 days, I have a different measure of the seasons. I consider September, October and November to be Fall. Weather-wise that seems to fit, also the feel of the air and the angle of the sunlight fit what I understood to be Fall while growing up in New England.

Soon the fall foliage will dazzle us with its splendor. Depending on temperature, moisture received during the year and where one actually lives in New England, that display can be breathtaking or disappointing and will most often run the gamut in between those two extremes. Depending on where you live.

I grew up in Vermont. Where we lived (and where The Olde Vermonter still lives) we had a great view of the surrounding hills. Most years the colors were absolutely magnificent on those hillsides. Getting up in the morning and seeing that display never got old. We didn't talk about it, we just enjoyed it. Perhaps we took it for granted as well. When one sees grandeur all the time, it can become commonplace.

Some trees are already changing color, it's not widespread and is patchy on the trees themselves. But it's a sign. Fall is here. Winter is not far behind.

But in New England, we revel in the sights, sounds and smells of Autumn. Yes, Autumn in New England has it's own aroma which once experienced is never forgotten. The air itself smells rich. It's one of my favorite times of year.

No doubt I will be quaffing a bit of Shipyard Pumpkinhead Ale during the season. But for now, a poem by Paul Verlaine, which title is the same as this post, en anglais, A Song of Autumn. (Those familiar with World War 2 may recognize the first stanza.)

Chanson d'Automne - P. Verlaine
Les sanglots longs
Des violons
De l’automne
Blessent mon cœur
D’une langueur

Tout suffocant
Et blême, quand
Sonne l'heure,
Je me souviens
Des jours anciens
Et je pleure
Et je m'en vais
Au vent mauvais
Qui m'emporte
Deçà, delà,
Pareil à la
Feuille morte.

English translation:
The long sobs
Of the violins
Of Autumn
Wound my heart
With a monotonous

All choked
And pale, when
The hour chimes,
I remember
Days of old
And I cry
And I'm going
On an ill wind
That carries me
Here and there,
As if a
Dead leaf.

* The official name of the state is, "The State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations" which derives from the merger of two settlements. Rhode Island colony was founded near present-day Newport, on what is now commonly called Aquidneck Island, the largest of several islands in Narragansett Bay. Providence Plantations was the name of the colony founded by Roger Williams in the area now known as the city of Providence. - Wikipedia

** Not literally mind you, in Little Rhody they would actually be sent "across the Bay" to the Adult Correctional Institute or ACI. "Going up the river" originated in NYC, back when folks sentenced to hard time would be sent up to the Ossining Correctional Facility (Sing Sing) on the Hudson River.


  1. Fall USED to be my favorite season when I lived Up Nawth where there are actually trees. I still enjoy Fall a lot (football! hockey!) but Spring is my new "favorite season."

    1. I've heard that spring in the high desert can be spectacular.

      Spring is pretty special Up Nawth as well.

    2. You heard correctly, Spring on the High Plains can be beautiful under the right conditions but it's not as spectacular as Fall in the northern latitudes.

  2. 61 degrees outside right now in the Texas Hill Country. Should I put a fire in the fireplace?

    Spent a bit of time on Google Maps just now. I'd never really looked at the topography of Rhode Island. There really is a lot more green than I thought there'd be. Guess I just thought of it as the Eastern Suburbs of NYC or the Southern Suburbs of Boston. BTW, the Google Maps shot of the Naval yard still has Saratoga in it. She was looking a little rusty though.

    1. Nothing like a wood fire on a crisp Fall day.

      Most of the urban stuff is around Providence and on the southern tip of Aquidneck.

      Still a lot of what I'd call boondocks in the state.

      Sara was looking pretty sad before they towed her away. Rusty, listing slightly to port and down by the stern a bit. Very sad, reminded me of a proud old warrior just counting down the rest of her days.

  3. Fall....time for cider and crisp apples, apple pie...probably a hot toddy (or two). There used to be a portable cider mill set-up in North Spfld near the old covered bridge where you could feed the apples into the press and then drink the cider, of course that was many years ago. Football games in the neighborhood. ahhh, fall!


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