Thursday, October 20, 2016
Change in the Air
"Now the leaves are falling fast.
Nurse's flowers will not last ...."
I recently memorized this poem--"Autumn Song," by W. H. Auden (link to the entire poem)--and it got me to thinking about seasonal changes--and about how poets have written about them since the dawn of poetry itself.
When I was a kid, seasonal changes had one simple meaning, revealed in a couple of boyish questions: Can I ride my bike today? Can I play baseball today? Can I go outside today? That was about it.
But as I've gotten older, the metaphor of change has begun to overwhelm all other concerns. Living things grow, they fade, they die (or seem to have died). Then ... spring ... If you've survived ...
Every fall in recent years, my thoughts have turned more and more this way--and ever darker. This fall, for example, I've already seen the end of the sweet corn season at Szalay's Farm Market (where we buy our corn all summer long). The Hudson Farmers' Market--which operates on the Village Green, just a block from our house--has closed for the season. Every morning, our yard displays more and more fallen leaves. Some birds are looking wistfully to the south.
And yesterday was my last bike ride of the year. On nice days I ride down to Starbucks after lunch--maybe a mile away (much of it on sidewalks and a bike path)--where I drink heavy caffeine, read, write doggerel.
But I know it's not wise for me at my age (nearly 72) to ride in the cold and the wet (it's probably not wise for me to ride at all, but I'm a-gonna do it until I just simply can't). In a few minutes I'm going to go out on the porch and transfer my bike to its winter home--the basement. Where, every time I go down there, it will look reproachfully at me until the warmth of spring/early summer is here. And I'll haul it back upstairs, stuff it in the car, drive it to Eddy's for its annual checkup. And, after Eddy's, it will forgive me.
Mortality, of course, hovers darkly above all of this. And the inevitable question that begins with this: Will this be the year that ...? I refuse even to write the rest of that question. Words sometimes awaken and alert Mr. GR (Grim Reaper), reveal your location--like a ping on a lost smart phone. Oh, that's where he is!
I've realized while writing this that my seasonal questions today are not all that different from the ones I had in boyhood. Can I ride my bike today? Can I go outside today?
It's the sort of question we all ask, really--whatever age. In youth, most of us are not aware those heavy words are what make our tongues lie flat. Later ... we know.