They sit together on the porch, the dark
~Wendell Berry “They Sit Together on the Porch”
Knowing, yet not knowing.
Minus the pipe…
Old friend now there is no one alive
who remembers when you were young
it was high summer when I first saw you
in the blaze of day most of my life ago
with the dry grass whispering in your shade
and already you had lived through wars
and echoes of wars around your silence
through days of parting and seasons of absence
with the house emptying as the years went their way
until it was home to bats and swallows
and still when spring climbed toward summer
you opened once more the curled sleeping fingers
of newborn leaves as though nothing had happened
you and the seasons spoke the same language
and all these years I have looked through your limbs
to the river below and the roofs and the night
and you were the way I saw the world
~W.S. Merwin from “Elegy for a Walnut”
This grand old tree defines the seasons for me~
and defines me as I age.
This winter’s storms took its branches down in the night
with deafening cracks so loud
I feared to see the remnant in the morning,
yet it stands, intrepid
for another round of seasons–
tired, sagging, broken
and still reaching to the sky.
April is like the raggedy, wandering gypsy lad of the fairy tale.
When he moves, streaks of gold show beneath his torn garments
and you suspect that this elfin creature is actually a prince in disguise.
April is just that.
There are raggedy, cold days, dark black ones,
but all through the month for a second, for an hour, or for three days at a stretch you glimpse pure gold.
The weeks pass and the rags slip away, a shred at a time.
Toward the end of the month his royal highness stands before you.
~Jean Hersey from The Shape of a Year
I avoid mirrors now as I age, knowing I’m clothed in rags, thinning here, thickening there, sagging and stretching, wrinkled and patched up.
Still, if I look closely past the rags and sags, I see the same eyes as my nine year old self peering back at me.
The lightness of youth and freshness may be disguised, but it is still there.
Every once in awhile, I glimpse pure gypsy gold.
For some time I thought there was time
and that there would always be time
for what I had a mind to do
and what I could imagine
going back to and finding it
as I had found it the first time
but by this time I do not know
what I thought when I thought back then
there is no time yet it grows less
there is the sound of rain at night
arriving unknown in the leaves
once without before or after
then I hear the thrush waking
at daybreak singing the new song
~W.S.Merwin “The New Song”
These sudden ends of time must give us pause.
We fray into the future, rarely wrought
Save in the tapestries of afterthought.
More time, more time.
~Richard Wilbur from “Year’s End”
Time sweeps me along,
takes me where it wishes,
even gets the better of me
until I clutch it for a moment
to see and hear and hold it close
to never forget~~
forever restless, time escapes my grasp
and so it shall ever be.
Tonight at sunset walking on the snowy road,
my shoes crunching on the frozen gravel, first
through the woods, then out into the open fields
past a couple of trailers and some pickup trucks, I stop
and look at the sky. Suddenly: orange, red, pink, blue,
green, purple, yellow, gray, all at once and everywhere.
I pause in this moment at the beginning of my old age
and I say a prayer of gratitude for getting to this evening
a prayer for being here, today, now, alive
in this life, in this evening, under this sky.
~David Budbill – “Winter: Tonight: Sunset”from While We’ve Still Got Feet. © Copper Canyon Press
Within these days of early winter
is disappearance of the familiar world,
of all that grows and thrives,
of color and freshness,
of hope in survival.
Then there comes a moment of softness amid the bleak,
a gift of grace and beauty,
a glance of dropping sun on a snowy hillside,
a covering of colorful cloud puffs in the valley,
a view through melting ice,
and I know the known world is still within my grasp
because you have hold of me.
Autumn is the eternal corrective.
It is ripeness and color and a time of maturity;
but it is also breadth, and depth, and distance.
What man can stand with autumn on a hilltop
and fail to see the span of this world
and the meaning of the rolling hills that reach to the far horizon?
Summer, waning and wistful, has packed up and moved on without bidding adieu or looking back over its shoulder. Cooling winds have carried in darkening clouds spewing long overdue rain. Though we need a good drenching there are still onions and potatoes to pull from the ground, apples to harvest, tomatoes not yet ripened, corn cobs just too skinny to pick.
I’m not ready to wave goodbye to sun-soaked clear skies and the lush richness of summer.
The overhead overcast is heavily burdened with clues of what is to come: earlier dusk, the feel of moisture-filled air, the deepening graying hues, the briskness of breezes. There is no negotiation possible. I steel myself and get ready, wrapping myself in the soft shawl of inevitability.
So autumn advances with the clouds, taking up residence where summer has left off. Though there is still clean up of the overabundance left behind, autumn has brought its own unique plans for display of a delicious palette of hues. It is an eternal corrective for what ails us.
The truth is we’ve seen nothing yet.