There is something about autumn that invites reflection. Perhaps it is that the year is winding down and that process summons us to do some inventory work. Or perhaps it is looking toward Thanksgiving and considering what we feel we do or do not have to give thanks for. There's nothing like a Sierra stream clearer than crystal or a mountain pond reflecting the glory of fall, to encourage us to consider how blessed we have been, even in the toughest of times.
Back in the eighties and nineties when I was teaching the experiential writing of poetry to SLO County students K-12, on a monthly basis I would publish some of the best poems the kids wrote in a column in local newspapers. Unbenownst to me, one reader of the column sent it to his aunt, who taught literature and poetry at a university in Australia. She loved reading the kids' unselfconscious and precocious creative offerings, so she wrote her nephew back and told him he should get ahold of this woman who taught youngsters to romp with language and have so much fun with words. So one quiet autumn evening he called. He, his wife, and I became friends.
I learned something important from that unfolding of events.
The first facet of the discovery is: It doesn't take someone who knows you to set an adventure in motion.
The second facet is: We are all connected, whether we're aware of it or not.
The third facet is: Pay attention to what you say. Do not react. Respond. You never know how far what you're saying will go.
A few autumns later, I learned my friends were both experiencing health issues that were potentially terminal. One reflective autumn evening, shortly after returning from a trip to the Eastern High Sierra, I wrote "Autumn Reflections" for them. More than once, when I read this poem in public, listeners come to ask if I will send them a copy for someone to whom they want to send it. Their intended destinations have been all over the world.
My latest learning from this experience is: Do not ignore an impulse to reach out to others. Your words or act may salve or save a life.
And have a happy Thanksgiving.
What voice is not stilled in autumn
before that deep echoing of colors
swelling the moon with change?
Why does it startle us so
that decay should come cloaked
in such a liberation of color?
Such a tumult of silence?
It is not easy to accept
this moaning of light
this stripping of leaves
this harvest of loss
this relentless rustle
and crackle of change
this reluctant ritual of letting go.
When at last we have lived long enough
to grasp the fleeting preciousness of life
the paradoxes it comes clothed in
what ineffable sweetness and sorrow autumn brings
this sensual season of candles, incense, and musk
this sacred season of enigma and fire
this matchless season of smoke and spice and shadow
this inevitable season of mystery and ashes.
So pull your chair up to the fire
warm yourself before the embers
and let them sing softly to you
all the joy you have brought
all the good you have done
all the beauty that you are.
Big Pine Creek