Equinox

Autumn’s first unleaving
Another year gone, leaving everywhere
its rich spiced residues: vines, leaves,
the uneaten fruits crumbling damply
in the shadows, unmattering back
from the particular island
of this summer ~ this now, that now, is nowhere
except underfoot, moldering
in that black subterranean castle
of unobservable mysteries – roots and sealed seeds
and the wanderings of water. This
I try to remember when time’s measure
painfully chafes: for instance when autumn
flares out at the last, boisterous and like us longing
to stay – how everything lives, shifting
from one bright vision to another, forever
in these momentary pastures.
                                                            ~   Fall song ~ Mary Oliver

Comments always are welcome.

50 thoughts on “Equinox

    1. Spring is a pretty season, but autumn is earthier, and more complex. Asking someone to name a favorite season is a bit like asking, “Which is your favorite child?”, but I certainly look forward to autumn each year, and the slightest sign of its coming — like this leaf — makes me happy.

  1. You’ve got hueful translucence in the leaf.

    “Unmattering” struck me. Normally we’d take the word to mean ‘not mattering.’ That may still be true here, but there’s also the literal sense of ‘disintegrating’ (reminiscent of “Goldengrove unleaving” in Gerard Manley Hopkins’s equinoctially named poem). I also was taken with representing summer as an island.

    1. It probably won’t surprise you to know that I considered Hopkins’s poem for this image. In the end, only the ‘unleaving’ remained, in its caption. If it were the end of the season, I might have gone with Hopkins, but we’re just beginning autumnal transformations, and I enjoy them too much for the melancholy of the poet’s words to Márgarét.

  2. I am about to leave to lead a group on a nature walk, and these gorgeous words of Mary Oliver will go with me, in my head, and on my tablet perhaps to read to everyone. As was the case with Steve above, I was struck by the word unmattering. I wager, if she composed the poem on a computer today, that SpellCheck would have told her there is no such word!

    1. Silly SpellCheck! It only knows the words it’s taught, and it’s not much given to word-play, ambiguity, or creative constructions. I’m glad you enjoyed the poem enough to think of sharing it. Since you’re farther into autumn than we are, I’d think it suits your circumstances even better.

  3. Your photo and Mary Oliver’s poem are a perfect start to my morning. I’m looking out at the first true fall sky of the season, it’s cool enough to open the windows, and the lone Texas Redbud on the bluff is sporting fall color. It’s a day to enjoy.

    1. Isn’t it wonderful to watch the seasons change the appearance of the sky? There really are winter skies and hurricane skies, and every Texan I know longs for those post-norther skies of October. There’s no blue like it in the world; I’m glad you have one of those days.

      ‘Cool’ sounds good, too. We had a bit at the beginning of Beta, but now the humidity’s creeping back up, as well as the temperatures. The timing does seem right for a trip to the refuges this weekend. The trick’s always to get there after the rain, but before the next mosquito hatch.

    1. Reflective, maybe. In any event, it’s a restful image and a restful poem. As normal as our summer heat is, it still can be a struggle to get through it, and any signs that relief is on the way are cherished.

  4. It is fall and here in Austin, it feels that way. Sort of. Lovely poem. I was also struck by the word ‘unmattering’. Like the previous commenter, I wonder what spell-check would do with that??

    You photo is autumnal. My garden is about to burst forward with its ‘second spring’ blooms, then the foliage change will happen, much later.

    Did you get much rain with Beta? We’re soaked, but it’s been mostly drippy, misty, Oregon-like rain, which is nice.

    1. Parts of Houston are well and truly flooded, particularly the freeways and access roads that always flood. Some bayous are creeping up after substantial (ten to twelve inch) overnight rains, but many of the current problems have the same old causes: people who insist on going to the beach when they shouldn’t, or driving through water-covered roads, or removing barriers that officials have set up. People!

      I know that things are turning there, and that you’ve had cooler weather than here on the coast, but there are bigger changes afoot. I’ve seen some milkweed fluff, and beauty-berries. Most goldenrod isn’t in bloom yet, but the rains we’re getting should make the plant life happy.

      I love ‘unmattering.’ It’s so much more attractive and dynamic than ‘decaying.’

  5. Beautiful! For a moment, before I scrolled down, I thought the poem was yours and was mighty impressed. Then I saw it was another of Mary Oliver’s exquisite poems. But for a minute or two, I was wowed by what I thought were your poetic abilities.

    1. Oh, heavens. Would that I might approach Mary Oliver-level poetry! Sometimes I do produce a good one, but her vision is special.

      What’s especially appealing to me about her work is that some of it doesn’t seem any better than what I could produce. Given her prodigious output, that’s not a criticism, but a testament to the ups and downs experienced by anyone who loves their craft and works at it consistently. I can’t find the quotation now, but somewhere I read an interview where she referred to some of her work as ‘practice poems’ — even though they ended up published!

  6. A beautiful photo, and accompanying passage from Mary Oliver. We are feeling autumn up here now, after the worst of the fires have passed, and smoke has cleared. I can smell the earth and vegetation again.

    1. I’m so glad the air has cleared for you, Lavinia. We rarely get bad smoke, but when it’s in the air from agricultural fires, it’s impossible to smell anything else. A hint of woodsmoke or burning leaves is lovely, but that’s quite a different thing. The sun is shining just now; we’ll see what the afternoon brings.

  7. You know, Linda, I’ve seen way more “Happy Fall, Y’all!” signs around here than one would expect for this being Illinois! And yet, perhaps my fellow residents are just as tired as I am of this long, hot, and exceptionally dry summer and ready for the beauty of Autumn. Thank you for this lovely photo and Mary’s “song” to accompany it.

    1. I suspect it’s a combination of things: heat, confinement, days blending into one another — all of it. I know how cheering it was to step out into a 70 degree morning last week. The sooner we get to 60 degrees, the happier I’ll be. You’re ahead of us, of course — enjoy every autumnal sign that comes your way!

    1. The sun is shining for now, even though there are a lot of flooded roads and homes. I brought some work “home from the office,” so to speak, so I’m going to head outdoors and do a little sanding on those pieces while I wait to see if we’re done with it, or if there might be showers to come. I suspect there will be, but at least the worst of it seems to be over. I’m glad I found this little leaf last weekend — the nature center where I discovered it has been closed because of the flooding.

  8. Spring is the season of delicate greens, garnished with white and pastel blossoms. Summer is the season of full bodied greens sprinkled with the jewel tone blossoms of flowers running wild. Autumn is the season of oranges and oxblood reds, old golds and the russet of brackens.

    1. Don’t forget the deep purple beautyberries, the pretty purple asters, and the pretty purple pineapple-shaped plant called Eryngo. It’s easy to develop a purple passion for autumn, too!

  9. It has been said Florida has two seasons: green and brown. We are in transition to brown.

    I ventured into the swamp yesterday to relocate a tree covered in white fungi. Found it the day before but was birding and only had the big lens with me. Yesterday, as I tried to capture a suitable image, I noticed yellow, orange and red leaves floating on the water’s surface.

    Autumn. Sneaking into Florida around my legs.

    Thank you for a poignant equinoctial post today!

    1. Your Florida seasons made me smile. That’s like the old joke about Houston having three seasons: pollen, hurricanes, and October.

      After enjoying your galleries and blog entries, I’m glad you mentioned your big lens. That helps to explain your wonderful photos of the birds. I do my best to fight lens envy, but it must be a joy to have such great equipment. Of course, there’s a way around the issue: find subjects that suit the lens!

      My only personal experience of Florida’s been a week in Lakeland and several visits to the Keys, so ‘Florida autumn’ seems like an oxymoron. I’m looking forward to seeing more of it through your blog.

    1. I don’t doubt she read Hopkins. For me, her poetry’s more accessible (despite having a few Hopkins favorites of my own), but there are clear similarities in their views of nature. In the same poem you quoted, there’s this: “nature is never spent/There lives the dearest freshness deep down things…” It’s a point she insisted on making, again and again.

    1. I suspect your releaving is a bit of a relief after a winter fraught with various difficulties. I love your comparison of the leaves to school children. It’s perfect, especially for those times when energetic new growth appears quite literally overnight.

    1. Hal Borlund, once the nature editor for the New York Times, wrote, “Woodland in full color is awesome as a forest fire, in magnitude at least, but a single tree is like a dancing tongue of flame to warm the heart.” I’d say even a single leaf can partake of that same warmth.

  10. Looks like the last leaf with just the one flame against the green background…getting ready for autumn to flame out and welcome the inevitable colorless winter. We don’t exactly flame out here in Florida, hardly flame at all with our pines and palms which do not change much. Cypress sometimes will offer up some muted oranges certain times of year. Mostly here its your skin that feels the changes, so slightly less humid and so slightly temperature moderated..here in late September.

    1. I very nearly used the verse from Coleridge:

      “The one red leaf, the last of its clan,
      That dances as often as dance it can,
      Hanging so light, and hanging so high,
      On the topmost twig that looks up at the sky.”

      Then, I decided to save that for later in the season, and for a leaf on a branch rather than one already fallen.

      The change in humidity and the shorter days are the signs here. Temperature makes a difference, of course, but like you, we don’t seen a real absence of green until much later in the season: like, December-February. Some of my favorite winter photos involve snow on palms.

      1. Interesting, I didn’t even pick up on the leaf as already fallen. I saw the light on it and the dark background and in my mind’s eye it was up. So funny how color, light, and preconceived notions can combine to see something not quite there. Which is probably why we humans often make poor eye witnesses. The Coleridge verse is kind of perfect and I probably have some attached last leaves somewhere, but they could be yellow not crimson. LOL!! Although I did shoot some glorious trees in Seattle in Fall many moons ago….maybe there? :)

        1. Well, that’s easy. Just say, “With apologies to ST Coleridge,” and change the poem to “the last yellow leaf/the last of its clan…”

          You’re right about our preconceptions. Sometimes we see things that aren’t there, and sometimes we don’t see things that are right in front of our noses — things that everyone else can see. Birding comes to mind. How often have you heard this dialogue: “Where?” “Right there!” “I can’t find it — where?” And so on, ad infinitum, or at least until the bird’s spotted or the searcher gives up.

          By the way: I have a new follower from your state. You might want to take a look at his blog: Our Natural Places. He and his wife live in Lakeland, and apparently get out and about a good bit. He’s a marvelous photographer, and his blog’s a joy to read.

  11. I read “unmattering” as disintegration also. I guess autumn does bring to mind our mortality with the passing of apparent life life into the question of whether there will be a return or that what we are seeing will indeed disintegrate into not nothingness but life unrecognizable. For many of us life’s end is the end as we know it but for all else it is just part of an unending cycle.

    1. I don’t have a death wish, but I love the fading and unmattering that come with autumn. As for what comes next for us? A few years ago I found the perfect answer. You may have seen me post a link to it before, since it is such a favorite, but here it is again. Every time I listen to it, I end up laughing.

        1. I feel like changing the lyrics to “Our Beach.” I went down yesterday to see what damage TS Beta might have done to the Hamby Nature Trail, and oh, my… It’s been swept clean. I expected the vegetation to be damaged or gone, but I didn’t expect the dunes to be gone. I’m going to have to make another trip, and see if there are any dunes left farther down the coast. I found exactly one flower in about a mile of walking, and a lot of damage to boardwalks and so on. I’m glad I have some “before” photos to go with “after.”

          1. That is awful, Linda. Of course, nature heals herself in ways we cannot do for her but the timeline may stretch beyond our duration. I feel the same about the before pictures I made of a few trees in Quabbin Park that have either fallen, been pruned, or just plain been taken down.

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