A gnarled tree trunk, nestling leaves...
It's a dreary day, and I must admit I am ready for the weekend, although it is only Thursday. This poem is a comfort, an encouragement that it's OK to settle down, like leaves falling into a welcoming earth. I don't have to be strong enough to hold others; I am not always strong enough to hold myself up. But there are gentle hands, which can hold and calm when it's time to rest.
Rainer Maria Rilke
The leaves are falling, falling as if from far up,
as if orchards were dying high in space.
Each leaf falls as if it were motioning "no."
And tonight the heavy earth is falling
away from all other stars in the loneliness.
We're all falling. This hand here is falling.
And look at the other one. It's in them all.
And yet there is Someone, whose hands
infinitely calm, holding up all this falling.
Have you had a pumpkin latte yet? Roasted vegetables? Pork stew? Apple Dumplings? As the temperature starts to sink, and our body yearns for some sort of consolation, we often warm our souls through comfort food (or music). In "Buckwheat Cakes," the poem below, Guest insists that "Every season has its joys/Every day its touch of mirth", gifts to help us celebrate our lives. In this instance, a stack of buckwheat pancakes provides a comforting constant no matter the changes that encroach upon our lives.
The Youtube clip is of Nat King Cole singing "Autumn Leaves." The mellow tones, apt for the sense of loss that fall often brings (and the song specifically addresses), seep into the bones; like a steamy tub at the end of a difficult day, they soothe and relax. And if you're missing the "color," you can feast your eyes as well. So grab yourself a cuppa your favorite, and enjoy.
Edgar A. Guest
"Now the frost is in the air.
Blue the haze at early dawn.
There is color everywhere.
Old and ragged looks the lawn.
Autumn's resting on the hills.
Harvested are fruit and grain,
And the home with gladness thrills.
Buckwheat cakes are back again!
Every season has its joys,
Every day its touch of mirth.
For us all - both girls and boys -
God has well supplied the earth.
What if care must fall between
Peace and pleasure now and then?
Autumn holds this happy scene:
Buckwheat cakes are back again!
Time and trouble change us all,
Youth gives way to middle age,
One by one our fancies fall
Till we reach life's final stage,
But in spite of aches and panes
And the difference old age makes,
Man devoted still remains
To a stack of buckwheat cakes."
Perhaps yesterday's post got me thinking about wandering. A few minutes early to an appointment, I passed my destination and kept heading up the country road, wondering where it might lead. Not more than a half mile further, I rounded the bend to find the Yellow Breeches spilling over a damway before flowing under a beautiful stone bridge. What a pleasant surprise!
Fall is the perfect season for taking a walk (or getting in the car to explore the changing countryside.) The crisp coolness of the air brings a sparkling clarity; trees shed their leaves, unveiling vistas cloaked by summer's impentrable layers of green; the change of light on the hills ushers in a sense of the magical. It's that expectancy of enchantment that is captured in the short poem below.
An Autumn Day
Eleanor Myers Jewett
"On such a day each road is planned
To lead to some enchanted land;
Each turning meets expectancy.
The signs I read on every hand.
I know by autumn's wizardry
On such a day the world can be
Only a great glad dream for me--
Only a great glad dream for me!"
- Eleanor Myers Jewett,An Autumn Day
A very different sort of feel is captured by the second "walking" poem I've posted. Here, the speaker resonates with the sense of loss that often comes in autumn, as birds migrate south, dead leaves rustle underfoot and the grasses sigh plaintively. Leaning into this melancholy, the walker finds it the perfect companion for his deep, indescribable longings.
Mortimer Crane Brown
I know the year is dying,
Soon the summer will be dead.
I can trace it in the flying
Of the black crows overhead;
I can hear it in the rustle
Of the dead leaves as I pass,
And the south wind's plaintive sighing
Through the dry and withered grass.
Ah, 'tis then I love to wander,
Wander idly and alone,
Listening to the solemn music
Of sweet nature's undertone;
Wrapt in thoughts I cannot utter,
Dreams my tongue cannot express,
Dreams that match the autumn's sadness
In their longing tenderness.
Whether you're invigorated by the fall, or find it tugging at a brooding sense of longing, an autumn walk may be just the thing for the weekend. I hope it will be as pleasant where you live as it finally promises to be here in Pennsylvania. We'll be out walking by the Yellow Breeches ourselves, come Sunday afternoon.
It has rained almost every day for the past several weeks. Flood alerts, watches, and warnings have frequently interrupted news broadcasts and afternoon classics. It's easy to relate to the incessant rain which provides the backdrop from this poem. The "common rain" goes on and on, mimicked by the run on sentence which doesn't come to a close until halfway down the page. The rain, "pale and anonymous," threatens to diminish the sense of selfhood of the poet. Tea, whiskey, ice and a pleasant fire cannot quench the melancholy which the evening brings. As the poet sits with his "causeless sadness", something unexplicable happens; he is suddenly surprised by a spontaneous gladness. The rain somehow awakens him to the fact that there is something more, something beyond his present waking consciousness. Some mystical connection has been made, some deep knowing has been evoked.
Several friends have recently discovered the benefits of sitting with their pain, observing their negative emotions. They neither suppress them, nor give them permission to dictate their actions. If they have something to learn from the emotions, they do so. Otherwise, they take note of them until they dissipate. Sometimes they are given a gift, an insight into an untended brokenness or deep yearning; at other times the feelings are only shadows themselves, left over from wrongs long forgiven, or wisps of nostalgia which dissipate like mists caught in the morning sun. No matter, they remain present, perhaps at the moment weakened, but strong enough to wait it out.
The First Night of Fall and Falling Rain
By Delmore Schwartz
The common rain had come again
Slanting and colorless, pale and anonymous,
Fainting falling in the first evening
Of the first perception of the actual fall,
The long and late light had slowly gathered up
A sooty wood of clouded sky, dim and distant more and
Until, as dusk, the very sense of selfhood waned,
A weakening nothing halted, diminished or denied or set
Neither tea, nor, after an hour, whiskey,
Ice and then a pleasant glow, a burning,
And the first leaping wood fire
Since a cold night in May, too long ago to be more than
Merely a cold and vivid memory.
Staring, empty, and without thought
Beyond the rising mists of the emotion of causeless
How suddenly all consciousness leaped in spontaneous
Knowing without thinking how the falling rain (outside, all
In slow sustained consistent vibration all over outside
Tapping window, streaking roof,
running down runnel and drain
Waking a sense, once more, of all that lived outside of us,
Beyond emotion, far beyond the swollen
distorted shadows and lights
Of the toy town and the vanity fair
of waking consciousness!
from Last and Lost Poems of Delmore Schwartz © The Vanguard Press.
I think God enjoys Godself. That thought came to me while pondering what it will be like to be in the presence of God. Often I think about this as being caught up in love, peace, rest. But this morning I imagined the playful energy that comes from freedom and delight. Kind of like God saying, "Hey come on up here, we're having a great time!" So I guess it shouldn't surprise me that when I went outside later in the day, God ambushed me.
Playtime in Fall
The tree outside my window grins.
Come, play with me!, she says.
I see the golden leaves that spin and swirl like honey in the wind.
And smile. That would be fun, I think.
But not right now,
I’m making soup and sorting files.
Files done, soup is made.
I should go for a walk.
I need to get some exercise,
It’s good for you, you know.
The tree ambushes me.
I’m more intent on raking leaves
That snuck inside my clean garage.
But then I look and SEE those leaves.
The treasure chest of gold and ruby,
Strewn beneath her boughs.
Ah ha! she says, then flirts.
Enjoy me! Scuff those leaves.
Drink the yellow, feel the breezes swaying through my hair.
See, I’ll pose against the blue November sky.
I smile, snap her photograph. Smell the yellow,
Drink in warmth. Mmmmm.
Well, time to move along.
I need to take my walk.
Good for me, my exercise
Good for me, I know.
Hey, what about the stream (our entry point for kayaking)
I’ve forgotten that it’s there,
Just beyond the grassy lawn.
I wander over to the bank, to gaze a while and muse.
The cheery sun would like to plant a kiss upon my face,
And so I lift my chin and pause for love.
I love the stream, I love the sound
Of eager waters, filling up the banks and in a rush
To who knows where-
Its music makes me happy.
And then it’s home for lunch, and so
I turn my steps toward the spacious green,
Kept tailored by a neighbor whom I do not know.
A wave of leaves, caught by the wind,
Is rolling in. My hands spring up to guard my face.
I gasp and laugh! Who knew the force,
The breakercrash of leaves?
I stand and watch the next gust draw them back into their sea,
The eddies settle, calm- until they pounce again.
I chuckle as I’m heading home.
My face a ruddy glow.
I’d rather play than exercise.
It’s good for you, you know.