Whispering Goodbye

Clustered flowers of the Pinewoods Rose Gentian ~ The Big Thicket
Don’t you imagine the leaves dream now
how comfortable it will be to touch
the earth instead of the
nothingness of the air and the endless
freshets of wind? And don’t you think
the trees, especially those with
mossy hollows, are beginning to look for
the birds that will come—six, a dozen—to sleep

inside their bodies?
And don’t you hear
the goldenrod whispering goodbye,
the everlasting being crowned with the first
tuffets of snow? The pond
stiffens and the white field over which
the fox runs so quickly brings out
its long blue shadows. The wind wags
its many tails. And in the evening
the piled firewood shifts a little,
longing to be on its way.
                        Song for Autumn  ~  Mary Oliver


Comments always are welcome.
For some views of  this flower in its prime, see my previous post.

49 thoughts on “Whispering Goodbye

    1. I was so pleased to find the flowers: clearly ready to exit stage left, but still attractive, and interesting, too. I especially like the peek into the center of one — and Mary Oliver’s peek into the heart of autumn.

  1. If there’s just one drying bit I’ll sometimes remove it so that what remains is pristine. In this case, there were a bunch of fading bits and you wanted to show the transition. You didn’t have the luxury, as you do with plants close to home, of being able to check back frequently to document all the stages in a plant’s cycle.

    1. I’ve done a little tampering myself: a twig here, a broken and dangling bud there. But you’re right that the transition was the thing in this case, and I was pleased to have just enough browning plant matter to hint at it. Comings and goings can be hard to distinguish, of course. While the impression of fading blooms is emphasized by the pairing with Oliver’s poem, I actually took the photo about an hour after sunrise, and the fresher flowers are in the process of opening.

  2. When I got to this page no part of the poem was visible yet. As I scrolled a bit, the first few lines came into sight, and as soon as I read them I assumed they were by Mary Oliver. From the poems of hers you’ve included, I guess her way of putting things had become familiar. I was going to write that her name was still down below the bottom of my computer screen, but then I realized that at that moment her name wasn’t really “below” anything. It didn’t yet have a physical existence the way words printed in a book do, yet I acted as if it did. What a world of illusions.

    1. “Her way of putting things” is what writers call voice; Oliver’s is remarkably consistent, particularly in her nature poetry, and it does become recognizable after a time. It’s really no different with photography. If I search for an image of a particular plant and one of your photos is in the midst of the selection Google offers me, I almost always can spot yours. They aren’t at all stereotypical, but there’s that elusive ‘Schwartzman Something’ in each that makes them stand out.

    1. She can set us to imagining, can’t she? Every now and then I come across an article about her that’s highly critical, but I just set it aside and hope the writer will regain his senses some day.

  3. Once again, Mary’s words seem to fit perfectly with a beautiful find of yours! Summer is still trying to hang on, but it’s plain that its days are numbered. A massive cold front on its way from Canada is going to drop temps something like 15 degrees for a huge part of this nation’s midsection — right on time, too!

    1. Very early this morning, I was listening to a national weather forecast. I don’t know which part of the country the meteorologist was talking about, but he said, “The combination of rain and fallen leaves will make the roads slick, so be careful.” I’d forgotten about that. Around here, it’s usually oil that slicks up the roads when rain finally comes. I’d much rather have the leaves.

      I suspect the front they’re predicting for us this weekend might be your front, heading south after it visits you. By Friday night, we may get down to 62F. The flowers will be shivering!

    1. I’m still pondering your most recent post, Curt. I’m glad to see your mention of rain; if you’re still away from home, I hope it’s not an escape in the most literal sense of the word. Snuggling’s good, and there’s no question that you can use some autumnal cool and damp as much as we can. Well, we’ll take the cool. We don’t need any more damp for a while.

      1. We had a great time on the coast, Linda. We went back to one of our favorites places, Bandon. We were escaping smoke but not fire. In fact, Peggy and I have committed to getting out and about for one week out of each month— except when we go for longer times. You get floods; we get drought. Whatever happened to moderation? –Curt

        1. What’s vaguely amusing is that I’m hearing our weather gurus talking now about the fact that we’ve had no rain to speak of since Beta, and we could use some in developing droughty conditions. That amuses me because I would have said Beta rolled through day before yesterday. My time sense is completely kaput at this point. I used to wonder what time it is. Now, I wonder what month it is!

            1. Work might save me if I had a ‘regular job,’ but when you work by the sun and by the weather, the days don’t matter, and scheduling’s never more than a rough draft. Every morning I get up, make coffee, walk outdoors and look for an answer to the question, “What time can I get to work?” Sometimes, a second question presents itself: “How many hours am I going to be able to get in?”
              Of course, those questions always can be trumped by rain, which leads to, “Well, so much for that.”

    1. That’s one of the things I appreciate about her poetry, Tina. She reminds me to listen, and to look.

      I went into Houston yesterday for an eye appointment, and had my yearly visual field test, to check my peripheral vision. My doctor expressed a good deal of surprise at the fact that this year’s test was much better than last year’s — as he said, “Your vision’s not supposed to be getting better!” Maybe I should tell him to prescribe Oliver’s poetry to people.

      1. Oh wow–I have to have my eyes checked 2x/year–are you a glaucoma suspect? I’m glad your vision is getting better and hope that continues! Maybe it is Oliver’s poetry…

        1. I’m not just a glaucoma suspect, I have glaucoma. When we started treatment, my pressures were 24/26. Now, they’ve been holding at 11/12 for several years.

          1. Oh, I’m so sorry about that. The good news is that it’s treatable, though daily and forever. I’m glad your eyesight is improving; it’s always good news. I’ve also been diagnosed with the beginning of macular degeneration, but my eyes haven’t deteriorated since the initial diagnosis, so that’s good. Here’s to good eyesight, reading beautiful words, and seeing beautiful things.

    1. I love the photo as much as I love her poem. They both have that combination of delicacy and toughness that’s deeply appealing. Oliver’s never saccharine, that’s for sure, and her vision of the world’s true to nature.

  4. Beautiful photo and poem evoking the peace and comfort of nature’s cycles. I love the colors of summer, but the gnarled trunks and bare branches against a winter sky are a more peaceful beauty of their own, at least to my heart and eye.

    1. When I read your comment, it called to mind the first lines of Shakespeare’s “Sonnet LXXIII”:

      That time of year thou mayst in me behold
      When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang
      Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,
      Bare ruin’d choirs, where late the sweet birds sang…

      Everything needs a rest from time to time, and winter’s a time of rest. Not only the trees, but also the skies take on a different character. A ‘winter sky’ is a real thing.

    1. It is. Those are my favorite lines in the poem, although there are other images that are quite striking. With poetry like this abroad in the land, autumn becomes a very beautiful season, indeed.

  5. The wheel of the year turns and the reign of the Holly King has begun. Life inhales in preparation for the exhalation of the coming spring. Oh, Mary, Mary. Every note you strike rings true.

    1. I suppose the only question to be answered anew each year is, “How long will life hold her breath until that exhalation comes?” Sometimes I worry that I’m posting too many Oliver poems, but then I remember: there never can be too many.

    1. I went through several titles before this one ‘stuck.’ I’m glad you thought it a good one. Even though we’re still complaining over here about the lingering summer (with its humidity), clearly the wheel is turning.

  6. Even before I read the name of the author, I suspected another poem by Mary Oliver. I didn’t really know how much I like her poetry until I started encountering it on your blog. Thank you for her lyrical lines about the passing of the season.

    1. She’s recognizable, isn’t she? There are so many gems among her poems; now and then I find one I don’t enjoy at all, but when a writer’s as prolific as she is, that’s to be expected. It’s one of the best things about her work as a totality; there’s something for everyone. She certainly did capture the longing at the heart of autumn beautifully.

  7. The petals of the two lower flowers remind me so much of cupped hands, possibly in a way of asking what the rest of this remarkably-unforgettable year has in store for us. Lovely pairing of the photo with the poem.

    1. I’d not seen those hands, but now I do. Perhaps they’re a gesture of supplication from Summer, asking to be allowed to stay just a bit longer. I do enjoy pairing images and Oliver’s poetry. There often are matches that seem perfect as soon as I see the photo, or read the poem.

    1. There are autumnal colors beyond the vibrant reds, yellows, and oranges that we love so much. Around here, purple and gold in all their shades are typical of autumn, and this flower comes close to being a pretty almost-purple.

  8. Mary Oliver has a way with words. So do you. As Tanja mentions above, as soon as I saw verse I thought it would be her and then it was true. And this is a lovely flower. My woodpile shifts all too often and on some occasions needs restacking or it will fall over.

    1. There’s something immensely satisfying about a good woodpile. It’s more than just the promise of warmth, important as that is. The splitting and stacking may be a pain (and produce a few pains), but that kind of repetitive work has a lot in common with berry-picking or floor scrubbing. If nothing else, you get to see a concrete result, immediately.

      1. That is true. It’s a good kind of tired at the end of a session. Although I use a pneumatic splitter and not an over the shoulder splitting maul )I did at one time) seeing one pile grow smaller and another larger is very satisfying and that feeling returns when tossing a few splits into the stove on a cold night.

    1. It is comforting, in several ways, and who couldn’t use a little comfort these days? As for this flower, I fell in love with it as soon as I found it. The single blooms are pretty, but the clusters are just splendid.

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