Saturday, October 23, 2010


All things on earth point home in old October; sailors to sea, travelers to walls and fences, hunters to field and hollow and the long voice of the hounds, the lover to the love he has forsaken.
Thomas Wolfe

Nothing stirs the soul like autumn.  We awake from the nepenthean sleep of summer and witness something even more beautiful than we imagined —  more beautiful perhaps because we are forced the recognize the transient nature of what we love.  It is a time for reckoning,  a time to discard the frivolous and return to our essence, a time to prepare for the coming winter.  That is why, as Thomas Wolfe observed, all things point to home in late October.  Home is the place where our hearts find solace, the place where our authentic lives are rooted, the place where we will wait like the ancients for the reassurance of another spring.

Some of our finest poets have meditated on the implications of autumn for the human spirit.  What they have to say is much of what I feel during these closing days of October. What you take from these poems will depend upon where you are at this point in your own personal journey.  Enjoy.

                                    A certain day became a presence to me;
                                    there it was, confronting me -- a sky, air, light:
                                    a being.  And before it started to descend
                                    from the height of noon, it leaned over
                                    and struck my shoulder as if with
                                    the flat of a sword, granting me
                                    honor and a task.  The day's blow
                                    rang out, metallic -- or it was I, a bell awakened,
                                    and what I heard was my whole self 
                                    saying and singing what it knew: I can.

Denise Levertov
"Variation on a Theme by Rilke"

                                     Withered vines, gnarled trees, twilight crows,
                                     river flowing beneath the little bridge,
                                     past someone's home.
                                     The wind blows from the west
                                     where the sun sets, it blows
                                     across the ancient road,
                                     across the bony horse,
                                     across the despairing man
                                     who stands at heaven's edge.

Ma Chih-Yuan
"Meditation in Autumn"

                                     Nature's first green is gold,
                                     Her hardest hue to hold.
                                     Her early leaf's a flower;
                                     But only so an hour.
                                     Then leaf subsides to leaf.
                                     So Eden sank to grief,
                                     So dawn goes down to day.
                                     Nothing gold can stay.

Robert Frost
"Nothing Gold Can Stay"

                                  Lord, it is time.  The summer was so great,
                                  Impose upon the sundials now your shadows
                                  and round the meadows let the winds rotate.
                                  Command the last fruits to incarnadine;
                                  vouchsafe, to urge them on into completeness,
                                  yet two more south-like days; and that last
                                  inveigle it into the heavy vine.

                                  He'll not build now, who has no house awaiting.
                                  Who's now alone, for long will so remain:
                                  sit late, read, write long letters, and again
                                  return to restless perambulating
                                  the avenues of parks when leaves downrain.

"Autumn Day"

                                   The leaves are falling, falling as from far,
                                    as though above were withering farthest gardens;
                                    they fall with a denying attitude.

                                    And by night, down into solitude,
                                    the heavy earth falls far from every star.

                                    We are all falling.  This hand's falling too —
                                    and have this falling-sickness none withstands.

                                    And yet there's One whose gently-holding hands
                                    this universal falling can't fall through.

Peace to Everyone!


  1. I feel that expansive feeling that comes like a breeze from the direction of the setting sun, and all of everything is right. My friend is back. The photos are quintessential autumn, yet somehow a revelation. The melancholy of autumn is revealed through beautiful, loving lips and loving hearts that treasure it as I do. It's time to pause, revel, and sit late, read . . . [and] write long letters . . .

  2. Well, what I took from this, George - apart from your fab photographs as always - were the Rilke poems, but, more especially, and especially since I didn't have the ever-so-slight discomfort of slightly ill-fitting translation problems (I'm being picky) - the Levertov. I simply love her work. Though I hadn't read, or can't remember, this one - which may be one of her lesser known ones - and, as often with Levertov, will require rereading and meditation. She is an outstandingly sincere, sacred, non-egotistical and unobtrusive poet.

  3. To Ruth,

    Thanks, as always, for your lovely comments, Ruth. Nice to be back in the fold. These poems are a bit melancholy, except for the Levertov, but they are truthful about the introspection that comes with this time of the year.

  4. While all the photos are tremendous (that crane-egret-ibis bird!), the first one stole my heart: the stone chimney and addition, the yellow door and blue paint, the real shutters, the vine-covered tree, the light. It reaches my heart the way your image of the farmhouse in Provence does.

  5. To Robert,

    Thanks for the nice comments, Robert. Glad you liked the Levertov. I related to the notion that a day — with its sky, light, and air — can become like a presence, a being with whom one can interact. The other poems are a bit melancholy, but, as I said in my response to Ruth's comments, they are truthful in terms of the introspection that comes with the visible changes of autumn and the advent of winter.

  6. The hues of fall in your photos are startling - an awakening before the sleep of winter. In CO, whiteness is knocking on my door - I'm glad I can enjoy your colors vicariously! (That little blue house with the yellow door is story-book perfect!) Welcome back.

  7. To Ruth,

    Thanks for the additional comments. I'm delighted that you like the header photo of the cottage. This is one of my favorites, as well. This cottage is currently uninhabited and is used for the storage of antiques. Apart from the subject matter — I love old cottages — the two things that led to this photo were the wonderful play of light and the presence of the three primary colors, red, yellow, and blue.

  8. To Barb,

    Thanks, Barb, for the lovely comments. It's nice to be back, and I'm especially happy that you like the photo of the little blue house. I couldn't resist this photo when I found the blues, yellows, and a touch of red bathed in the late afternoon light.

  9. I've missed your posts, and am so glad to see that you're back! Wishing you a wondrous autumn ~

  10. To Anonymous,

    Thanks for your supportive comments. Here's wishing that you have a lovely autumn yourself.

  11. Your own words are just as fine as what these finest poets have to say!
    Lovely autumn photos!

  12. To Wanda,

    Thanks, Wanda, for the generous comments. Glad you enjoyed the autumn photos.

  13. Beautiful to have you back, George, especially with such a visually and poetically evocative post.

  14. Thanks, Lorenzo. It's nice to be back.

  15. Such a rich and evocative post George! Truly a meditation on impermanence, change, home, self.

    I feel such a resonance with your choices of themes, images and thoughts ... so very pertinent to a time of life where one is called to examine life and one's participation in it on a deeper level.

    Welcome back, friend.

  16. To Bonnie,

    Thanks, Bonnie, for the generous comments. It's nice to be back. I'm glad you liked this posting. Some of the poems are a bit melancholy, but some degree of melancholy is inevitable, I think, with the onset of autumn and the advent of winter. I hope your wrist is still on the mend and that you will soon be back to your normal life, assuming, of course, that there is any such thing as a normal life.

  17. I am so glad you have come back from your little sojourn.
    You have brought with you a post which speaks to many hearts and souls, mine included.

    Both Rilke poems are wonderful, even in translation but in the original they are sublime.

    Stay awhile, George.

  18. To Friko,

    Thanks for the lovely comments. It's nice to be back. I'm sure the Rilke poems are even more marvelous in German.

  19. And peace to you too, George - lovely to have you back. Lovely photos and lovely poems. I particularly like the photo of the heron and I love the Frost poem - last year I was able to visit Frost's grave one day on my visit to the US - it was a gloriously warm Spring day and the peace in his lovely village was perfect.

  20. To Pat,

    Thanks for the kind comments, Pat. It's nice to be back. How wonderful that you were able to visit the grave of Frost on your visit last year to the U.S. That's something that I haven't done.

  21. George
    so much to ponder with these images and words, they certainly stir the soul.

  22. To Tramp,

    Thanks for the comments, my friend. I hope your back and spirits are in fine shape. I bet the autumn in your corner of the world is quite spectacular!

  23. Hello, George. Welcome back! It's so good to see you again. As always, your words and pictures resonate with me. You make colors sing in your pictures. The composition is wonderful, but today, I am most in awe of the color.

    I agree with you that there is a turning inward in autumn. Yes, all things point to home. And I love the way the natural world becomes magnified in autumn--the smell of leaves, dirt and water is stronger. Even the feel of bark on the trees is more pronounced.

    I love all of the poets you have highlighted. My favorites tend to fluctuate with my mood. Levertov, Frost, and Rilke are certainly on my list. Levertov's
    "Variation on a Theme by Rilke" is breathtaking. But today, Ma Chih-Yuan's "Meditation in Autumn" rings a note deep in my soul. There is so much going on thematically and technically beneath the simplicity of images. I love that. It is powerful. Thank you!

  24. To Julie,

    Thanks, Julie, for the generous comments. So glad you liked the photos and the poems, and I'm especially happy that the Ma Chih-Yuan poem resonated deeply with you. The last few lines of that poem about the western wind blowing "across the despairing man who stands at heaven's edge" really moved me, and still does. Very powerful — and somewhat haunting.

  25. Thanks for stopping by, Nick. I'm glad you like the photos.

  26. I was immediately drawn to the dramatic ginkgo, since ours is at it's peak of autumnal glory. I'm currently reading Rilke's Letters to a Young Poet, so I especially liked that you included his "Autumn". Beautiful post.

  27. To Willow,

    Glad you liked this post, Willow. Nothing can compare, however, to Rilke's "Letters to a Young Poet." Many people have "answers," but few have the wisdom or Rilke, who tells us to be patient with our lives and live the questions.