Tuesday, November 8, 2011
Once More, “To Autumn”
So far November and October have changed places. Those beautiful, mellow, warm-hearted autumn days I longed for in October, we have them now.
It’s the side of autumn Keats’ great poem “To Autumn” summed up as “Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness.”
With his “close-bosom friend, the maturing sun,” Autumn conspires:
"To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For Summer has o’er-brimm’d their clammy cells."
The bees don’t want to think it’s over, I still saw one today, a yellow-jacket, groveling in the low-lying blooms, and neither do I.
We are creatures of longing.
We long for the sublimely autumnal expressions of our climate, the modulated color tones, golden leaves flowing everywhere, over landscapes both wild and domestic, the year’s final flowers, the scents, the memories, the sense of natural and human satiety. We are fulfilled, we have come through another year, we are well at heart.
All this creates the longing for more life. Sometimes for a different life, or a better one. Sometimes renewal. A time of culminations and closures, autumn, is also a time of beginning. Because now we have to live with our indoor selves all winter.
This year we will remember the sweet, sensual days of the autumn weeks when we’re struggling through days of deep chill and thin light. This year we will remember to count our blessings and figure out how to pick the lock on our memory bank and pull out the beauty of yellow trees and a multi-colored carpet of newly fallen leaves beneath our feet.
Because it’s warm today and easy to linger out of doors and just stare at things, all the living imagery of the garden says “Autumn! Final Days! See it now!” The yellow leaves of the astilbe, the deep red final-stage color of the Japanese maple, the young wiegelia sticking bronzed branches up in the air in front of the older shrub as if waving its hand for attention.
Birds filled the back garden today, for reasons they didn’t share with me. I came outside with my camera, trying to make friends, and succeeded only in pushing them off. A woodpecker started in on a neighbor’s tree. I know this visitor, but I couldn’t spot him because the big hardwoods still have most of their leaves.
I stared upward at the ancestral oak whose leaves turn brown with a touch of maroon, looking a beautiful bronze in Keats’s “maturing sun.”
I am like a squirrel, burying my nuts everywhere. It’s a season to mature our longings and practice making better use of our own harvest of memories.
“Where are the songs of Spring?” Keats’s poem asks. “Think not of them, thou hast thy music too.”
Here’s one attempt to catch a few notes:
What the Window Saw
From the window
Or so it seems
The fading Rose of Sharon
Extends a limb
Around the Arborvitae,
Though whether sheltering
Or seeking shelter
The window cannot say