Even now, beneath skies deep with clouds
and a cold wind blowing, even now,
in the days of dwindling light, the Yes
hangs reminders. The trees may be bare
and the fields stripped of vegetation,
but look: here is a shrub still holding
its color, a kiss-bright red to dispel
the gloom. Go into the night believing
that you are supported, and loved.
It never hurts to have some staples set aside.
That’s what Grandma used to say, tucking
quart jars of plums and apples, pickles and beets,
tomatoes and chili sauce, white beans and green
on her basement shelves. Sometimes I’d stand
in the pantry’s doorway marveling at the colors,
remembering the rich fragrances
that filled the house when grandma canned.
I thought of them today when I saw
the ripened cherries and remembered
how they hung encased in ice last winter,
and how the early-returning robins
feasted on them in the March snow.
Nature has her pantry, too. Maybe
she knew my grandma.
Come walk this autumn path with me.
Come gather its color and breathe its perfume
before it fades away. Such magic is rare;
it cannot hold. It lasts for only one day
and then it’s gone. Come, walk with me.
Come watch the golden leaf-coins fall
across our path. Tuck the red leather
of the oak into your pocket to spend
on dreams. Listen to the secrets
whispered on the wind as it carries
these bright bits of the season away.
Come walk with me and gather this treasure
for keeping in memory’s store.
To the oaks, the seasons are the breathing
of the earth, exhaling her life-giving warmth,
then drawing in the radiance of the sky. To them,
it is all a dance, the upward rush of sap,
the flowing outward of new leaves,
the arrival of the singing birds,
the fullness and flowering of it all,
followed then by the inward travel
back to the source. And in between
each breath, earth pauses, allowing
summer to ascend to its heights,
winter to reach the fullness of rest.
The oaks surrender to it all, caught
in its beauty, joyous in its rhythm,
honored for the privilege
of playing their part.
The red-winged blackbirds are gone now,
having flown like the leaves from the trees
who stand bare behind the low blue creek,
raising their white limbs to the sky
as if in celebration of their freedom.
Except for the rustling of the breeze
through the bright oaks and the occasional
call of a crow, silence reigns, a portent
of the coming winter’s quiet. But before
the earth settles into dream, she dances
one more time, in jeweled colors,
lifted high, like promises
of beauty to come, as she whirls
toward winter, toward yet another spring.
Let us now gift our Mother
with the colors of the sun,
children of our own, grown
with love. We watch their spirits
rise even as their bodies fall,
holding the food of the seasons.
May they warm and nourish you,
dear Mother, and all the lives
that you support. May they sing
to you of summer as you dream
your winter’s dreams.
Patiently they wait, holding their green
while the beeches and sassafras
open the show. They watch
the maples sweep the hills
in their yellows and crimsons,
their burgundies and golds.
And then the rain comes
and just when you think
that autumn has spent her glory,
you wake to find that the oaks
have stepped onto the stage
to dance the grand finale
of the show.
Like a cloud of butterflies, the leaves fluttered down,
riding on the soft, cool rain. I watched them twirl
in a graceful dance, then settle gently on the ground,
each one finding its perfect place. They fell
as if they were part of some great waltz, as if
they had waited for this particular song
to dance their final dance, as if the music
of the rain was their long destined cue.
And when they landed, I could almost hear
them sigh, “Home. This is home now.”
You are the essence of gaiety and delight.
To stand inside your citron arms
is to banish every residue of sadness,
every wish for something other than
this shimmering now.
Your lemon-lime leaves sing
the music that my heart has so longed
to hear. And I dance to you,
oh great one, with my soul shouting Yes.
What a splendid sweep of color!
What a flamboyant show!
October’s in her glory now.
The whole world’s aglow.
Russet, gold and crimson
stretch as far as we can see.
It’s a fanfare for autumn,
played for you and me.