Riehl’s poem “Fall at the Lake” observes & celebrates the shift in season

This poem was written in Lake County, Northern California, and refers to Clear Lake, California’s largest self-enclosed lake. I now cross the Mississippi River at least once a week, rather than gazing out on Clear Lake. But, as we’ve slid deeper into Autumn with the time change, this poem from “Sightlines: A Poet’s Diary” (see sidebar) has been much in my thoughts. –JGR

“Water Ceremonies,” by Janet Riehl (Bioregional Artist in Residency through UC/Davis)


It is fall at the lake now, no question.
The water cold and roughened by the wind.
The ducks have flown through.
To keep the falling oak leaves
and redwood needles at bay,
I sweep my wooden porch at least once a day.
We had our first rain last night,
sustained and gentle
as it fell on the roof and slid off.

No longer able to swim because of the cold,
I’ve started walking in the nearby state park.

Each day, something new.

Today, a covey of quail on top of a brush pile.
A dozen wild turkeys foraged
in the rain-damp earth at a deserted camp site.
Deer came down from the hills and peeked onto the path,
holding me in their wide-eyed gaze.
Two turtles sunned on a log.
Then, one slid down,
as if on a children’s playground.
When I looked under the log in that world
of dark shadows and reflected branches,
I saw a red crayfish dart.

The quiet is deep
with all the summer people gone.
There is a feeling of sadness
attuned to the darkening
of the shorter days
and longer nights.

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