The porch swing hangs fixed in a morning sun that bleaches its gray slats, its flowered cushion whose flowers have faded, like those of summer, and a small brown spider has hung out her web on a line between porch post and chain so that no one may swing without breaking it. She is saying it’s time that the swinging were done with, time that the creaking and pinging and popping that sang through the ceiling were past, time now for the soft vibrations of moths, the wasp tapping each board for an entrance, the cool dewdrops to brush from her work every morning, one world at a time. ~Ted Kooser “Porch Swing in September” from Flying at Night
It is hard to just let go and let life move on, as it will do on this day’s transition to autumn, whether with us or without us.
We build our little lives so carefully; we plan and choreograph and anticipate, and all it takes is a creaky swing (or a measly little virus) to pull it to shreds.
So we rebuild, strand by strand, in the conviction that we still belong here even when everything around us is changing and will pay no attention to how we’re left hanging.
We keep trying. We keep believing. We keep wanting to make the world a little more beautiful.
I love to go out in late September among the fat, overripe, icy, black blackberries to eat blackberries for breakfast, the stalks very prickly, a penalty they earn for knowing the black art of blackberry-making; and as I stand among them lifting the stalks to my mouth, the ripest berries fall almost unbidden to my tongue, as words sometimes do, certain peculiar words like strengths or squinched, many-lettered, one-syllabled lumps, which I squeeze, squinch open, and splurge well in the silent, startled, icy, black language of blackberry-eating in late September. ~Galway Kinnell“Blackberry Eating”
“In that year, 1914, we lived on the farm And the relatives lived with us. A banner year for wild blackberries Dad was crazy about wild blackberries No berries like that now. You know Kitsap County was logged before The turn of the century—it was easiest of all, Close to water, virgin timber, When I was a kid walking about in the Stumpland, wherever you’d go a skidroad Puncheon, all overgrown. We went up one like that, fighting our way through To its end near the top of a hill: For some reason wild blackberries Grew best there. We took off one morning Right after milking: rode the horses To a valley we’d been to once before Hunting berries, and hitched the horses. About a quarter mile up the old road We found the full ripe of berrytime— And with only two pails—so we Went back home, got Mother and Ruth, And filled lots of pails. Mother sent letters To all the relatives in Seattle: Effie, Aunt Lucy, Bill Moore, Forrest, Edna, six or eight, they all came Out to the farm, and we didn’t take pails Then: we took copper clothes-boilers, Wash-tubs, buckets, and all went picking. We were canning for three days.” ~ Gary Snyder “6” from Myths and Texts.
Earth’s crammed with heaven And every common bush afire with God But only he who sees, takes off his shoes, The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries~ –Elizabeth Barrett Browning in “Aurora Leigh”
All I wanted was a few blackberries.
I admit my objective was just to pick enough for cobbler for today’s noon dinner after church, oblivious to God burning in the bushes towering over me, around me, snagging me at every opportunity. If I had given it more thought, I would have realized the reaching vines hooking my arms and legs were hardly subtle. The thorns ripped at my skin, leaving me bloody and smarting. The fruit itself stained my hands purple, making them look freshly bruised. I crushed fat vines underfoot, trampling and stomping with my muck boots in order to dive deeper into the bushes. Webs were everywhere, with spiders crawling up my arms and dropping down into my hair. I managed to kick up one hornet’s nest so I called it quits.
All I wanted was a few blackberries, so blinded to all the clues crammed in every nook and cranny of every bush.
All I wanted was a few blackberries, trampling on holy ground with well-protected feet, unwilling to be barefoot and tenderly vulnerable.
All I wanted was a few blackberries, the lure of black gold plucked at the cost of rips and scratches and tears.
What I got was burned by a bush…
and a few blackberries for today’s crammed-with-heaven cobbler.
I went out to cut a last batch of zinnias this morning from the back fencerow and got my shanks chilled for sure: furrowy dark gray clouds with separating fringes of blue sky-grass: and the dew
beaded up heavier than the left-overs of the rain: in the zinnias, in each of two, a bumblebee stirring in slow motion. Trying to unwind the webbed drug of cold, buzzing occasionally but
with a dry rattle: bees die with the burnt honey at their mouths, at least: the fact’s established: it is not summer now and the simmering buzz is out of heat: the zucchini blossoms falling show squash
overgreen with stunted growth: the snapdragons have suckered down into a blossom or so: we passed into dark last week the even mark of day and night and what we hoped would stay we yield to change. ~A.R. Ammons “Equinox”
We yield now
to the heaviness of the change;
a slowing of our walk
and the darkening of our days.
It is time:
day and night compete
and neither wins.
The passing of the summer fills again my heart with strange sweet sorrow, and I find the very moments precious in my palm. Each dawn I did not see, each night the stars in spangled pattern shone, unknown to me, are counted out against me by my God, who charges me to see all lovely things… ~Jane Tyson Clement from “Autumn”
I know I have missed too much over my life time:
so many one-of-a-kind masterpieces hung in the sky
at the beginning and the ending of each day
I never noticed, being asleep to beauty.
I no longer move oblivious
through the birthing and the dying of the days
without shedding a tear,
now knowing how precious the moments
and how rare and loving the Artist.
Dawn is a new gift every day,
even if the shortest night was sleepless,
and the longest day won’t return for another year.We get up
to see just what might happen
as you never know what might be
just over the horizon
as we round the solstice corner
to face the darkening.That’s why we bother.
All creatures are doing their best to help God in His birth of Himself.
Enough talk for the night. He is laboring in me;
I need to be silent for a while,
worlds are forming in my heart. ~Meister Eckhart from “Expands His Being”
The first day of spring is a traditional celebration of the rebirth of nature’s seasonal rhythms, and God’s inner renewal of our hearts.
I know some new spring mornings are pitch black with blustering winds and rain, looking and feeling like the bleakest of October mornings about to plunge into the death spiral of deep autumn and winter all over again.
No self-respecting God would birth Himself into something like this: a dawn as dark as night.
But this God would.
He labors in our darkest of hearts for good reason. We are unformed and unready to meet Him in the light, clinging as we do to our dark ways and thoughts. Though we are called to celebrate the renewal of springtime, it is just so much talk until we accept the change of being transformed ourselves.
We are silenced as He prepares us, as He prepares Himself for birth within us. The labor pains are His, not ours; we become awed witnesses to His first and last breath when He makes all things, including us, new again.
The world is reborn — even where dark reigned before, even where it is bleakest, especially inside our broken hearts now healing.
Enter autumn as you would a closing door. Quickly, cautiously. Look for something inside that promises color, but be wary of its cast–a desolate reflection, an indelible tint. ~Pamela Steed Hill from “September Pitch”
The door of summer has closed quickly behind me;
I am back to long days and interrupted evenings,
of worried voices and midnight calls with over-the-phone sobs,
of emergency room referrals and work-them-in schedules.
I want to tell them it’ll be okay, hug away their anguish
despite the encroaching lengthened nights;
that winter coming does not mean
the end of all.
It takes a background of darkness
for the light to shine brightest
Shadows are borne from illumination~
It will be okay, even now, even so.
The songs of small birds fade away into the bushes after sundown, the air dry, sweet with goldenrod. Beside the path, suddenly, bright asters flare in the dusk. The aged voices of a few crickets thread the silence. It is a quiet I love, though my life too often drives me through it deaf. Busy with costs and losses, I waste the time I have to be here—a time blessed beyond my deserts, as I know, if only I would keep aware. The leaves rest in the air, perfectly still. I would like them to rest in my mind as still, as simply spaced. As I approach, the sorrel filly looks up from her grazing, poised there, light on the slope as a young apple tree. A week ago I took her away to sell, and failed to get my price, and brought her home again. Now in the quiet I stand and look at her a long time, glad to have recovered what is lost in the exchange of something for money. ~Wendell Berry “The Sorrel Filly”
On the final day of summer, it seems much is lost. I struggle to stay awake to each passing moment, wanting to hang on tight to what has just disappeared into the ether of time.
These lost moments are not for sale; there is no price high enough. They can be recovered, treasured up, stored away.