A full year passed (the seasons keep me honest)
since I last noticed this same commotion.
Who knew God was an abstract expressionist?
I’m asking myself—the very question
I asked last year, staring out at this array
of racing colors-the out-of-control Virginia creeper
my friends say I should do something about,
whose vermilion went at least a full shade deeper…
~Jacqueline Osherow from “Autumn Psalm”
It gets out of hand — the Virginia Creeper — traveling surreptitiously from one building to the next, up trees and poles and down holes. We don’t know every place it has gone until it turns crimson in October, shouting loudly in technicolor from the most hidden spots. It cannot hide.
Our efforts at creeper control are meager in comparison to the Artist’s effort to brighten our world on a sullen autumn morning. What is stripped away one year reappears reinvigorated somewhere else.
The farm has become gallery, the buildings and grounds a canvas, the Artist busy painting free-form, and the audience, (yes those of us with eyes to see), stand breathless as mere witness.
The thistles, rooted out, throng in again;
The single regal rose is mobbed by weeds;
The plums, the pears, the ripening apples, rain
In the sun; and past summer plants new seeds.
Here, or there, these common yearly things
Repeat, repeat, and gardens do not range:
Yet thistles, roses, fruit trees, birds, and stings
Come to an end, and the church bells sound a change.
These many soft declensions of the day,
So hard to take to heart, bear life away.
~Dunstan Thompson from “Passage”
This winding down,
this descent into
shorter days and longer nights,
this preparation for an autumn austerity,
reminds me of my ongoing emptying,
once so full of fruit and seed,
now clinging to what is left me~
the joys, the tears,
the eyes of my brimming heart.
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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.
~Rainer Maria Rilke “Autumn” translated by Robert Bly
Sometimes I wake from my sleep
with a palpitating start:
dreaming of falling,
my body pitching and tumbling
yet somehow I land,
~oh so softly~
in my bed,
my fear quashed and cushioned by
I feel caught up,
rescued amid the fall
we all will do,
like leaves drifting down
from heaven’s orchard,
like seeds released like kisses
into the air,
the earth rises to meet me
and Someone cradles me there.
And then there is that day when all around,
all around you hear the dropping of the apples, one
by one, from the trees. At ﬁrst it is one here and one there,
and then it is three and then it is four and then nine and
twenty, until the apples plummet like rain, fall like horse hoofs
in the soft, darkening grass, and you are the last apple on the
tree; and you wait for the wind to work you slowly free from
your hold upon the sky, and drop you down and down. Long
before you hit the grass you will have forgotten there ever
was a tree, or other apples, or a summer, or green grass below,
You will fall in darkness…
~Ray Bradbury from Dandelion Wine
We are in the midst of our annual October storms complete with pelleting sheets of rain and gusty breezes. Along with power outages and an ever-present risk of flooding, these storms facilitate the annual “falling of the fruit” from our trees. It is risky to walk in the orchard this time of year – one could stroll about enjoying the brisk temperatures and autumn colors and be unexpectedly bonked on the head and knocked out cold.
The apples thud like horse hooves in the grass as our Haflingers race about in the cool wet weather enjoying the last bit of freedom before the winter lock up. Apples thud like over large rain drops but without the splatter. Apples thud after gradually loosening their hold on the sky and plummeting to come to rest on a soft carpet of green.
I recognize this call to let go, although clinging tenaciously when buffeted, my strength waning. Thought I fret and worry, the time must come for the pulled-forth fall. I may land a bit bruised, but will glisten golden from the journey.
There is no season when such pleasant and sunny spots may be lighted on,
and produce so pleasant an effect on the feelings, as now in October.
The sunshine is peculiarly genial;
and in sheltered places, as on the side of a bank, or of a barn or house,
one becomes acquainted and friendly with the sunshine.
It seems to be of a kindly and homely nature.
And the green grass strewn with a few withered leaves looks the more green and beautiful for them.
If I were a month, I would prefer to be October…
A kindly and homely nature, with comfortable temperatures and just a hint of fogginess,
with flashes of burnt umber flashing misty gold in a relinquishing light.
A sudden light transfigures a trivial thing,
a weather-vane, a wind-mill, a winnowing flail,
the dust in the barn door; a moment,
– -and the thing has vanished, because it was pure effect;
but it leaves a relish behind it,
a longing that the accident may happen again.
~Walter Pater from “The Renaissance”
The accident of light does happen, again and again, but only when I least expect it. I need to be ready; in a blink, it can be gone. Yet in that moment, everything is changed and transformed forever.
The thing itself, trivial and transient, becomes something other, merely because of how it is illuminated.
As am I, trivial and transient: lit from outside myself, transfigured by a love and sacrifice that I can never expect or deserve. I need to be ready for it.