By Brenda Buchanan
The turning of the leaves took us by surprise this year.
After a long summer spent watering the garden we had modest hopes.
Too dry for good color, we thought. Wait ‘til next year. (Yes, Red Sox fans, we said that about more than the foliage.)
A few days into October the show began, startling us with its vibrancy.
The swamp maples led the pack, but that’s true even in lesser leaf years. Then the big maple in our front yard began to glow, a reddish-yellow beacon visible from the end of the street. By last weekend all of southern Maine was alight.
To celebrate the end of a marvelous, warm summer, here are some photos from our recent travels, with some lovely poems about the season as accompaniment.
First, a Maine poet, Knox County’s own Edna St. Vincent Millay, whose iconic The Death of Autumn captures the despair that can accompany the dying season of the year:
When reeds are dead and a straw to thatch the marshes,
And feathered pampas-grass rides into the wind
Like aged warriors westward, tragic, thinned
Of half their tribe, and over the flattened rushes
Stripped of its secret, open, stark and bleak,
Blackens afar the half-forgotten creek–
The leans on me the weight of the year, and crushes
My heart. I know that Beauty must ail and die,
And will be born again–but ah, to see
Beauty stiffened, staring up at the sky!
Oh, Autumn! Autumn! – What is the Spring to me?
On the October 10 Writer’s Almanac, Garrison Keillor read Wendell Berry’s poem by the same name, which evokes not only the visual but the auditory aspects of autumn:
Now constantly there is the sound,
quieter than rain,
of the leaves falling.
Under their loosening bright
gold, the sycamore limbs
Now the only flowers
are beeweed and aster, spray
of their white and lavender
over the brown leaves.
The calling of a crow sounds
Loud – landmark – now
that the life of summer falls
silent, and the nights grow.
Finally, Song For Autumn, by the marvel who is Mary Oliver, a poet whose connection with nature is second to none.
In the deep fall
don’t you imagine the leaves think how
comfortable it will be to touch
the earth instead of the
nothingness of air and the endless
freshets of wind? And don’t you think
the trees themselves, especially those with mossy,
warm caves, begin to think
of 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
vanishes, and the white field over which
the fox runs so quickly brings out
its blue shadows. And the wind pumps its
bellows. And at evening especially,
the piled firewood shifts a little,
longing to be on its way.