We had a big wind event last Tuesday, and the power went out just as we were served our dinner in a nearby pub. The leaves fell down en masse that night. And, then there was rain, and it is now so dark in the mornings. Alone in the house on this early Sunday morning, it is dark and raining, and I can hear waves splashing over the dock. As Edward Hirsch writes in his poem, “Everything changes and moves in the split second between summer’s sprawling past and winter’s hard revision”.
The Billings grandkids stayed with us for a few days while their parents attended the Teacher’s Conference in Missoula. We had a lovely break in the weather one day and they climbed the big rocks at Wayfarer’s Park, in the low light of Autumn shining on the lake below them. Duncan said, “This looks just like Ireland!” He’s never been to Ireland and I can’t recall that I’ve ever showed him my photos. How did he know that–we are, indeed, kindred spirits. Just before dinner, I went down to the bench by the water to watch the remaining light of the day. Fletcher came to sit with me, and we talked about rain and dim light and how much we both feel at home in Pacific Northwest weather. We watched Mergansers swim close to the shore and Canada geese flocks overhead, and thought we might have heard a Loon out on the tranquil lake. We sat wordlessly, for the longest time, listening for its haunting call, and when a big pine cone fell between us, we were so startled that we both jumped up out of our seat. It was that still and quiet. Who gets to experience such things, I thought, with their first grandchild, now 16 years old. As I finished fixing supper, all three of them were out on the terrace, taking photos of the pink sunset with their phones. We were all there, together, for ” the changing light of fall falling on us.” These are moments to warm me in the approaching “winter’s hard revision”, getting closer and closer.
Edward Hirsch, 1950
Fall, falling, fallen. That’s the way the season
Changes its tense in the long-haired maples
That dot the road; the veiny hand-shaped leaves
Redden on their branches (in a fiery competition
With the final remaining cardinals) and then
Begin to sidle and float through the air, at last
Settling into colorful layers carpeting the ground.
At twilight the light, too, is layered in the trees
In a season of odd, dusky congruences—a scarlet tanager
And the odor of burning leaves, a golden retriever
Loping down the center of a wide street and the sun
Setting behind smoke-filled trees in the distance,
A gap opening up in the treetops and a bruised cloud
Blamelessly filling the space with purples. Everything
Changes and moves in the split second between summer’s
Sprawling past and winter’s hard revision, one moment
Pulling out of the station according to schedule,
Another moment arriving on the next platform. It
Happens almost like clockwork: the leaves drift away
From their branches and gather slowly at our feet,
Sliding over our ankles, and the season begins moving
Around us even as its colorful weather moves us,
Even as it pulls us into its dusty, twilit pockets.
And every year there is a brief, startling moment
When we pause in the middle of a long walk home and
Suddenly feel something invisible and weightless
Touching our shoulders, sweeping down from the air:
It is the autumn wind pressing against our bodies;
It is the changing light of fall falling on us.