It’s feeling like autumn here. The leaves have been falling into the grass for two weeks or so. Mostly brown, curled leaves, tossed with reds, oranges, yellows, vari-coloured greens. The small leaves on some of the azaleas are yellowing; the hydrangea flowers are faded maroon, plum, russet. One pink rose is still blooming and in bud, and a purple phlox that wasn’t eaten by the groundhog blooms, and a few lavender hosta flowers are at their prime. The small clustered berries on the Virginia creeper are red, orange, yellow, and green, and perfectly formed. Groupings of rubbery mushrooms pop up overnight. But little else in the garden seems blooming, prime, ripe, bursting with energy. There seems a sleepiness, a weariness, a languid sense of slip-sliding into decay and ruin.
The mornings are cold, in the 40s outside and in the high 50s in the house, and I am sleeping later, unwilling to leave the cocoon of bed covers. The dog finds a streak of sun on the deck and positions herself in it for maximum glow, though the sound of the leaves stumbling across the yard in the breeze keeps her half-watchful.
Winter has usually been my favourite season, but it’s hard to not love the nostalgic (even maudlin), loss-laden, death-foreshadowing feel of the first days of autumn, as the promise of summer in all of its mildness, brightness, and expansiveness fades. As everything seems to fade and decay.
I offer some of my favourite words about early fall, the liminal time when we stand on the threshold of summer, which feels closer than a humid whisper, and fall, which brings with it an unbidden awareness that summer is vanishing, like the last notes of a sonata we’re not sure has been performed:
“Early autumn rain drips on the roof over my bedroom. This year, I’m losing my job, my lover, and my husband. My hair softens in the cool wetness and friends tell me I’ve never looked better.” — This Woman (1973), Barbara O’Mary
“in the autumn field,
over the rice ears
The morning must trails,
vanishing somewhere …” — Iwa no Hime, c. 347 A.D.
“No lamp was burning as I read,
A voice was mumbling, “Everything
Falls back to coldness,
Even the musky muscadines,
The melons, the vermillion pears
Of the leafless garden.” –Wallace Stevens, “The Reader”
“I prefer winter and fall, when you feel the bone structure of the landscape — the loneliness of it — the dead feeling of winter. Something waits beneath it — the whole story doesn’t show.” — Andrew Wyeth
“Tears, idle tears,
I know not what they mean,
Tears from the depth of some divine despair,
Rise in the heart and gather in the eyes,
In looking on the happy autumn fields,
And thinking of the days that are no more.” — Alfred, Lord Tennyson, “Tears, Idle Tears”
“The falling leaves drift by the window
The autumn leaves of red and gold….
I see your lips, the summer kisses
The sunburned hands, I used to hold
Since you went away, the days grow long
And soon I’ll hear ol’ winter’s song.
But I miss you most of all my darling,
When autumn leaves start to fall.” — Johnny Mercer, “Autumn Leaves”
“Divinity must live within herself:
Passions of rain, or moods in falling snow;
Grievings in loneliness, or unsubdued
Elations when the forest blooms; gusty
Emotions on wet roads on autumn nights;
All pleasures and all pains, remembering
The bough of summer and the winter branch.
These are the measures destined for her soul.” — Wallace Stevens, “Sunday Morning”