Of winter’s lifeless world each tree Now seems a perfect part; Yet each one holds summer’s secret Deep down within its heart. ~ Charles G. Stater
Enduring the dark and quiet winter months, the trees appear to doze deep while standing stark naked against the sky, roused only by the whipping of the winds and when breaking under a heavy coat of ice.
It is uneasy sleep.
When I look close now, I can tell:
they conceal summer secrets under their skin, the sap flows thick and sluggish, there is a barely palpable pulse in those branches.
In the beginning is a dream of being. This is real: What the earthworm and slug do in their becoming what cells and galaxies do what the atoms in lichen and microbes are– the glue and the forces that hold us together– the armature of bones and stones. How the mountain and trees and oceans breathe. What the whale knows. We don’t know why only glimpses of how and what from the source of compassion– life making life and becoming as it turns again and again. ~Carol Snyder Halberstadt “What We Are”
Each day I glimpse cells organized into structures programmed to reproduce themselves. The essence of life making life comes from a spark of continuous renewal, from the dying away to the born once again.
The spark may be sheer chemistry between molecules, or an electromagnetic interaction of particles.
It may be a prophecy fulfilled or an old story retold or a dream made real.
I believe the spark is nothing less than Love itself, whether within the DNA of slugs or lichens or that of our precious next generation born in the image of God.
In the beginning, we were begun by this Love. In His compassionate grace, we will begin again and again.
I know all too well that the end of October means the light changes, the colors fade, and the chill sets in. I grasp and bundle up what scenes I can preserve now, like harvesting hay to be tied up in bales and stored safely until the middle of winter. Then, at the right time, when I’m most hungry for color and light, I loosen the strings and let the images tumble out, feeding me like mother’s milk.
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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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. ~Nathaniel Hawthorne
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.
…I have been younger in October than in all the months of spring walnut and may leaves the color of shoulders at the end of summer a month that has been to the mountain and become light there the long grass lies pointing uphill even in death for a reason that none of us knows…
my love is for lightness of touch foot feather the day is yet one more yellow leaf and without turning I kiss the light by an old well on the last of the month gathering wild rose hips in the sun ~W. S. Merwin from “The Love of October” from Migration
A wind gusts through shedding branches
stripping them bare
and carrying the leaves to yards
far away, to a diverse gathering
they have never known:
chestnut, cherry, birch, walnut, apple,
maple, parrotia, pear, oak, poplar
suddenly sharing the same fate and grave,
each wearing a color of its own,
soon to blend with the others
as all slowly melt to brown.
There is lightness in letting go,
for reasons none of us knows.
All the complicated details of the attiring and the disattiring are completed! A liquid moon moves gently among the long branches. Thus having prepared their buds against a sure winter the wise trees stand sleeping in the cold. ~William Carlos Williams “Winter Trees”
Winter seems less complicated than other seasons until the wind blows brutal and the ice glaze is an inch thick and snow bends branches to the ground to the point of snapping a tree in half. It is no longer a quiet gentle sleeping time but can take a tree down, unaware, in the night, the crack and crash of branches like gunshots hunting down innocent prey.
The clean up has begun, the remnants lying waiting on the ground and the naked trunks scarred.
Despite such devastation, the buds still swell, readying for the complexity of spring.