Tag Archives: autumn

Poems for Autumn

Most decidedly, this is a most un-autumn like season. Eighty-five degrees today, what an insult. So, to make myself feel better, I have two autumn poems.

A Twisting Almanac

Like a charcoal colored sea
The night rippled with cold
And I felt on its muscular currents
An unseen armada
Harbingers of the harvest
Of fields bowed to the scythe’s curve
Of twilight’s claws drawn across noontime’s skin
And the equinox arched like a cat across the sky

The wind worried the trees
And from its feral grip
Fell a crisp rain of jagged leaves
That coiled in the wind
And then rose in a helix
Tracing their autumnal DNA,
The cycle of kaleidoscope seasons,
To the distant spark that kindled their beginnings

Fruitful Debris

A broken mosaic
Confused as a shattered puzzle
A pink and cherry bower
That crumbled and nibbled at my feet
Crisp and familiar
Like a cat
My shoes stirred
Beneath the brittle fabric
They pushed at the jagged facets
Of the harvest colored prism
The withered reminders
Of nature’s insistence
That her beauty survives
Even when death
And the photosynthetic drought
Wreaths the ground
With its bloodless garlands

Image result for falling leaves fashion illustrations - vogue - 1920's

 

What I Brought Home

Summer comes hurtling towards earth on its heated equinox, an axis brought to a boil over months that travel at a fierce, flaming gallop.  Their intense progress swirls the sky into a seething panic.  And on its first day, the sun will bear night and day aloft at equal height, as Justitia holds the scales of justice.  The hours share the benefits of the new season, before autumn begins to claw its way towards its dark, harvest dominance.

I would venture out into the early summer evening, to watch the changing sky, the skeins of evaporating clouds, the caramel sun.  But when I returned, the only souvenirs I had were the constellations of mosquito bites on my arms and legs.  There was a cache of stars inside my elbow; burning recollections.  As I walked, I felt as if the remnants of that angry, heated day were seared into my skin…as if I carried shards of moons and stars back into my home.

On Holiday

“Let us speak of the revels which are accustomed to be made on St. John’s Eve…”

– the monk of Winchcomb, 13th century

During the summer, the sky swerves and tilts on a new axis. It slides on its equinox like a child sliding down a stairway banister. Summer Solstice, bronzed as any sunbather, lingers high overhead, lingering in Cancer’s Tropic. The shadows of St. John’s Eve leach into the stones of Stonehenge and then are cast across the grasslands of Wiltshire. The stories and thoughts of the prehistoric builders are revealed – but no one has yet been able to read them.

At twilight, the whimsical sky is crowded with revelers. Constellations, long absent from the carnival stage, begin to arrive. A menagerie of holiday visitors – eagles (Aquila), swans (Cygnus), foxes (Vulpecula), horses with starry wingspans (Pegasus) dance an orbit to an astral harp (Lyra). The trace work of their steps pierces the indigo fabric in a metallic frost.

The astrological wheel turns along the summer ecliptics and celestial equators. When it stops, Sagittarius the centaur is rearing against the sky, pocked with nebulae and stars, shouldering his quiver of arrows. Scorpius, bright with novas and poison, waits. Libra, outlined with a distant harvest of blue, orange and red stars, prepares to carry its scales of justice and good behavior during the liveliest of seasons.

Sunsets are very gala. They are the color of sweet cocktails – honey and Benedictine, sangria with plums and nectarines, champagne and peach. They are warm and melting – coating the horizon with an invitation to an evening of celebrations.

During the carnival evenings, planets are eager to crowd into the sky. If the moon is curved into a crescent, they hang from her geometric grace like jewels. If the moon is full, wearing her summer colors – Strawberry, Rose or Red – she casts a cherry-colored cloak across her new neighbors. Mars and Saturn ride lowest on the horizon, drinking in the last of the sunset’s sugared alchemy. But Jupiter is bold and bright, sailing like a radiant ship towards the moon’s blushing presence.

When summer’s hot allure is exhausted, the sky revolves once more to reveal unfamiliar populations and landscapes that bend over a ripe solstice, a golden equinox heavy with crops. Constellations float in the thin, cold air: dolphins (Delphinus), fish (Pisces), whales (Cetus) swim in oceans kept full by the Aquarian water bearer. The full moon dons her working garb: Harvest, Hunter’s.

Breezes as chilly as lace curl like a fichu across the diamante bosom of the modest sky. They kick up gusts of meteors and shooting stars: the Orionids, the Taurids, The Leonids – even the final sweep of the Perseid meteor shower.

Stars that did not take these giddy rides are left behind, glittering and lonely in the cinnamon sky. They are scattered like the ribbons and furbelows of the departed revelers’ indulgences. They were the madcap reminders that tickled the crooked backs of the workers in the fields, the residues of warmth that whispered of the pleasures they had missed.

Forever Amber

Throughout the temperate climates there are trees that hold on to their spring and summer greens throughout the later, demanding months.  They wear them as stubbornly and foolishly as one who wears a favorite coat in July or refuses to take an umbrella into the rain.  They live their evergreen lives eternally, proud of their verdant blood and the succulent life that will not blink in the face of the shifting seasons.

But there are some trees that pay attention:  to the altering temperatures, to the shadows that lengthen before noon, to the greedy night – Nature’s subtle hints that it is time to change.   Their leaves become melting prisms, with colors that undulate and flow:  creating microcosms of sunsets within a dying morphology.  Garnet, ginger, bronze and scarlet, they are as pure and fluid as the stained colors in cathedral glass.  The tints of Chartres, Notre Dame, Cologne are reflected in their autumnal DNA.   The air is bright with their departure; the earth and streets are crisp with the trees’ brittle sacrifices.

In the mid-17th century, Spanish naturalists stumbling through the Americas took note of a pretty tree with leafs shaped like clipped stars and a clear, perfumed gum that looked like liquid amber.

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350 years later their happy discovery is alive still, in backyards and cities, celebrating the cyclical weather, the migratory temperatures.

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Liquidambar styraciflua is known for its fluid colors and fragrant liquor.  It bleeds a clear or tinted resin reminiscent of the musky scent of burning amber.  This aromatic hemorrhage is what gives the tree its name.

The Amber’s round seed pods create sheet-music when superimposed against telephone lines.  Its roots are discreet.  Sidewalks do not buckle or erupt into mountain ranges that wait for pedestrians to stumble over, like unsuspecting gods.

It is used for decoration; above succulents and firs, cedar, oak and spruce its colors wink with whimsical flamboyance.  During the summer its canopy is lush with green youth.  By year’s end breezes rustle the crisp leaves like a mother running her fingers through her child’s tousled hair.

It drinks from the subterranean rivers that tumble through the earth in a web of fertile tributaries.  The green elixir permeates the body of the tree, creating an ornament that glories in the year and celebrates the four changing quarters.  It is a reminder of the comfort of change; the knowledge that beauty does not end but renews itself in perpetual rebirths:  that it lasts forever.

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The Nature Of The Feast

Saigyo said (and I only know that he did so, because J.D. Salinger quoted him):

“What it is I know not
But with the gratitude
My tears fall”

Now, many people, both here and distant, have seen fit to make fun of our innocent November holiday.  They say that it is a shallow thing, a mere celebration of overeating and television marathons.

Which of course it is.

But there is another, overlooked, word in that accusation: ‘celebration’.  And therein lies the real meaning of this particular day.  For Thanksgiving is not twisted about with politics or religion – it is uncontaminated with those things.  Instead, it is a celebration of the harvest:  in my case the harvest from Ralph’s and Whole Foods.  It is a celebration of the food you are lucky to see on your plate.  It is a celebration of the people sitting next to you and sitting across from you.    It is such a simple thing.  You are giving thanks for friends and family – people you care for most in the world that you have been able to gather together.  You are giving thanks for the 4 cups of heavy cream I will be putting in my potatoes gratin – thanks that such an act is still legal in the United States.

My mother is Jewish, my father is ½ Italian – perhaps it is in my blood to express affection with food.  But I can’t be positive about the relationship between DNA and dining.  Still, a heavy, festive table is a beautiful thing.

So is a James Bond marathon – parents and Boyfriend have been warned that this will be playing All Day.

A day of Thanksgiving – for all things, anything you can think of – is a pure holiday:  full of emotions so unsullied that indeed tears of gratitude will indeed fall.  And yet giving thanks is so easy to do:  anyone can take part!

By definition, Thanksgiving is a gathering of your own personal, wonderful people, your marvelous families.  It is a day to share the bounty.  Not STARE at, share.  Thanksgiving is a day to give thanks for all that you have.  And that is the nature of the feast.

Thanksgiving-young Rita Hayworth

Happy Thanksgiving, you darling people.

Scattered Vows

For the past two days I had been sick, the victim of blocked sinuses – the spaces felt like they had been reduced to the circumference of a neutron.  I should probably had stayed home from work for one day more, but the thought of spending another day mentally tracing each breath as it meandered its slow and tortuous way through my nasal cavities was more than I could endure.

I was driven to work today.  And as I got out of the car, something made me stand still, gasping with surprise.  It wasn’t my sinuses rebelling at the shock of fresh air.  It wasn’t my renewed astonishment at the bright yellow paint of my office building.

It was the wind.

Not a fey Spring wind, green and delicate.  Not a Summer wind, sweaty and bronzed, like the bodies on the beach.  It was an Autumn wind, swimming down from cold and distant currents.  It held the promise of Winter’s chilly bite but remained playful, like a kitten sheathing its claws before it pretends to attack.

As I continued to stand, the leaves began to fall – the powder that revealed the print of the sudden wind.  They gave their scent to the wind – dark and earthy; cold to the touch.  They seemed to spin around me; chasing and teasing.  I felt a twinge of guilt at glorying in their death, in their skin the color of sepia…but it was all Nature’s symbol of Fall, of the eternal harvest, and there was beauty there, too.

I stood transfixed, reluctant to move away from this sudden circular advent that danced around me.  The wind whispered of the future:  of early darkness, of amber sunsets that burned low and small beneath a heavy twilight, of air as crisp as autumn fruit.

I took in all its scattered vows, holding them close.  Then, carrying my invisible bouquet, I went to work.

missautumn

The Thanksgiving Chicken

Thanksgiving dinner at the Aubrey estate has always been a glittering affair, a marvelous journey that leads to the sublime merging of the splendid and the sated.  Invitations have always been jealously guarded, leading to bloodletting and tear shedding.  Popularity can be a curse.

Menus, however, have changed.  I am still looking for a vegetable dish that people will eat.  Some guests will NEVER eat their greens.  I will never cook a pie until I’ve fully recovered from the pecan debacle of the mid-nineties.  Bread…cookies…I’m always looking for a new look.

The turkey, of course, remains the same.  Cooking time is estimated so that the bird cooks all day, so that the Scent of Holiday will entertain both hostess/cook and guests all day.

The chicken also remains the same.

Prior to one of my first Thanksgivings, Mother and I were shopping for a centerpiece.  Every grand table – like a grand dame – needed a suitable crown.  I thought this was common knowledge, but we found nothing.  I wasn’t interested in sprays of autumn flowers, or gourds or candles.  I wanted something magnificent and feathered; a turkey built on Steiff-like proportions – a bird to fix upon the other lowly dishes on the table with its glassy eye.

No such bird presented itself.

But a chicken – sensing its chance, perhaps – did.  It was harvest colored and bold.  It held itself proudly.  Mother and I agreed that it was fine and brave enough to hold its own against the bird that would be roasting its way to fame in the kitchen, a few yards away.

And ever since that distant, wandering year, a Thanksgiving chicken has held court over the rich and annual meal.  Sometimes cheddar biscuits will be at its feet, sometimes pumpkin bread.  One year cheddar-potato gratin, another year the gratin will have goat cheese and caramelized onions.  Sometimes a vat of lasagna will find its way to the table.  Once or twice I’ve been forced – angrily – to add dried cranberries to the stuffing instead of cherries.  Every year will feature subtle differences.

But my guests can always depend on a turkey.  As well as a chicken.  And in a few hours it will stand at its rightful post, a feathered statuette commandeering one of the most wonderful meals of the year.

I can only hope that my twinkling blog-friends – I can hear you even now, hushed and charming – will emerge from this holiday with memories of vast and foolish caloric intakes, of turkeys past and present, and with your own version of the eternal Thanksgiving Chicken. May he – and you – crow forever.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Shine On, Harvest Moon

I was walking home through an evening that had become veiled and dusky.   A thin breath of fog coated the edges of trees and street lamps, turning them into gentle objects, into vague, painterly thoughts.  It was like walking through a nocturne by Whistler.

The twilight was mellow and cool, a blue reflection of a new, richer season.  Summer, however, still clung with a humid grip, and gardens continued to gasp within its hothouse embrace.  It was late September, approaching dark, but the weather still mocked scarves and gloves.

There was only the sky left to explore.  Shyly, hopefully, I looked up and gasped – admittedly, it was almost inaudible, but my mind echoed with a great shout of recognition and welcome.  The moon, even at this relatively early hour, was high and buoyant, her light tickling the trees’ black filigree tips.

Ninety-six percent illuminated, approaching her harvest size, she swam through a net of clouds like a mermaid.  She was bright:  brighter than the lamps rooted across the street; bright enough to guide ancient farmers on their antediluvian harvests.

That particular evening, the autumnal equinox was only a couple of days old, a golden declaration of the threshing months, of mature fields waiting beneath the goddess in the sky.  She was an astronomical marker of early shadows and ripe sunsets of amber and cherry.  She was a bold reminder of the living passages that crossed the firmament – the starry, distant map.

The moon was always observant:  from the time when the night was a pulsating fist, balancing constellations inside its muscular palm to that evening when I was walking home with my dinner.  She watched myth live out its days and the birth of history.  And when September was nearing its end, she illuminated the upturned faces of the men who asked for only a few more hours to work in their fields.

‘Harvest moon’ is for some a sentimental term by now, or even an item of curiosity.   But modern foolishness does not concern this pretty satellite.  Every autumn she rides the equinox, her light touching the skein of constellations that surround her – Andromeda, Pegasus, the Ursas.  She continues to shine on.  People have work to do.

Drink It Up, Drink It In

A Heated Argument

When I was walking home, I felt the microcosm of summer, a bauble gleaming like a bronzed sunset, land on my shoulder.  This gleaming toy began to whisper to me, telling me its secrets, its axis of seasons, its golden solstice.

I listened to its confidences.  It took pride in its air, where molecules were jostled and pushed into a thick equation of stillness and warmth.  It explained that throughout its turgid currents there ran a glistening drift of coolness, a cold metallic blessing woven into its heated tapestry.   It was a promise that autumn would always lurk in its sky like mercury reflecting behind a mirror…and that perhaps I should be patient.

The Windblown Time

The summer flowers have lost their innocence, their fresh chlorophyll drying to a standstill within green, clogged veins.  Their scent is a final gasp, rather than a graceful birth…their colors are garish, beyond their prime and on the brink of death.  Yet the affable season continued the discussion, making sure I was aware that the flowers’ slow liqueur only reached their pinnacle during the summer months.

The Overwhelming Air

I was aware of this.

During this heated time birds either migrate to cooler climates or rest in the trees in a stunned silence.  There was a time when the leaves would jump with mystery as their unknown occupants clutched at branches and fluttered with vexation.  Quorums of sparrows disputed, mockingbirds hissed and battled…but not during summer.  The shorebirds I loved – whimbrels and godwits carving the sand with sabre-like beaks,

Swords in Sync

sanderlings darting across the beach in packs of tiny earth-bound clouds…gone for the summer.  The heated breath in my ear explained that perhaps other regions should enjoy these birds’ song and flight illustrating the blank air.  Perhaps they should get the chance to read the tiny footprints in the sand; the dainty, flickering hieroglyphs.  Perhaps.

A summer sky during the day is bland and soft:  an expressionless face, without texture or wrinkle.  It is a vacuous hothouse, heated by a single star that tears a white corner out of the sky.  The summer night, however, burns with stars.

The Scalded Sky

Constellations – Scorpio, Hercules – and triangles made from Vega, Deneb and Altair – bloom out of the horizon like jeweled gardens.  There now, I heard the triumphant reasoning in my ear – isn’t that pretty?  But I prefer the harvest moon, the wolf moon,

The Moon Sails in Arcs

The Moon Sails in Arcs

its scythe and jaws fierce and penetrating through the cold twilight and swirling Delft-colored clouds.

By now, summer’s heated argument was weighing heavily on my shoulder.  Its points of debate were gallant, but I was having none of it.  I twitched my shoulder, and the golden bauble stumbled onto the sidewalk, shattering into a thousand prisms – its final bewitching challenges.  But I stepped over this wasteland of regret and continued walking and waiting.

Happy Halloween

Question/Inspection

 

Did You Leave This Here?

 

Odd...This Wasn't Here When I Left

 

My Conclusion Is: This Is NOT A Treat

 

I Am Not Convinced That This Is Fancy Feast

 

Two Profiles