“Sometimes, I feel the past and the future pressing so hard on either side that there’s no room for the present at all.” ~ Evelyn Waugh, from Brideshead Revisited

“Autumn, Rowan Tree and Birches” (1906, oil on canvas)
by Igor Grabar

                   

“Remembered landscapes are left in me
The way a bee leaves its sting,
hopelessly, passion-placed,
Untranslatable language.” ~ Charles Wright, from “All Landscape Is Abstract, and Tends to Repeat Itself”

Sunday night. Rainy and cool, blessedly cool.

Outside my door, the low October sky looms. I would like to say looms largely, but it seems to contrived, somehow. But it’s true. It’s low. It’s looming, and it’s large.

“Autumn Landscape” (1903, oil on canvas)
by Henri Edmond Cross

Heavy. Gravid.

It is gravid in its heaviness.

I’m not trying to be coy. That’s just how it is, how it seems: low, looming, large, heavy, gravid—as if expectant.

Expectant for what, I do not know. But if I peer into the clouds long enough, I can feel the air gathering around my face, the descent of minute particles of moisture collecting in my brows. And I must say, it is heavenly. A respite from the thick humidity, more like August than October. And so I delight in this evening, despite the unending wall of clouds the color of pale rust.

You see. I have not forgotten how to live in the moment upon occasion. I can still summon that still, small voice that says to the universe in its infinite wonder, thank you.

“Ah, it is here now, the here.” ~ Jorie Graham, from “The Covenant

“Poplars, Row in Autumn” (1891)
by Claude Monet

You might find it strange that I can delight in such dismal weather, but I have spent too much of recent days wiping sweat from my face, feeling as if my skin is covered in a thin coat of oil, the kind that sprays from a can, as if I have been misted, not with mineral water, but soul-clogging oleo.

So even though it is raining, even though the cover for the grill is completely soaked and lying on the ground instead of protecting the gas grill we bought for Corey, even though the dogs will not venture outside, I am delighted, delighted that it is almost 30 degrees cooler than yesterday, that the air conditioners are off, and the ceiling fans are still. Fall is finally here. Autumn has arrived.

I can feel it. But more importantly, I can smell it, smell the beginnings of loam from the fallen leaves that have collected in piles across the grass. There is no other smell quite like it unless it is the smell of freshly fallen snow on a plot of land far away from the city.

Fall. The season of poets and painters. The time for words and golden washes.

Too much? Perhaps, but I think not.

“The low song a lost boy sings remembering his mother’s call
Not a cruel song, no, no, not cruel at all. This song
Is sweet. It is sweet. The heart dies of this sweetness.” ~ Brigit Pegeen Kelly, from “Song”

“October Morning” (nd)
by Guy Rose

My best October?

To tell you would be to reveal too much, but I can say that it was the year I began graduate school in the mountains of Virginia, a place where Autumn is a rite of passage, where people stop and pay attention to leaves changing color. It was a season filled with change, exciting discussions about literature, Brunswick stew cooked over a fire in an iron pot, a gathering of graduate students drunk on cheap wine and heady conversation.

My worst October?

Oh. The autumn of great loss. Caitlin. Felt hats and rain coats. New friends and old. Heartbreak before the intense pain and anguish.

My most memorable October?

The year Corey and I sailed around the Caribbean, played tourist in far-away places, saw waters so blue I wanted to weep.

“overtaken
by color, crowned
with the hammered gold
of leaves.” ~ Linda Pastan, from “The Months

What is it exactly that I love about autumn (aside from the incipient melancholy)? Nostalgia? Oh yes, the melancholic gets very nostalgic indeed.

But what specifically? Another list?

  • It’s finally cold enough for Christmas socks and sweaters
  • The color burgundy isn’t too dark to wear.

    “October Gold” (1922)
    by Franklin Carmichael

  • Velvet. I don’t know why, but I associate the softness of velvet with autumn
  • Dark nail polish. Do you know how many shades of dark red there are?
  • Classical music. My taste in music is seasonal, and cool weather heralds Beethoven, Bach, and Mozart.
  • Books. There is nothing that I like to do more than read on a cold, rainy afternoon.
  • Poetry. I write more poetry in the fall.
  • Black yoga pants and white cotton sweaters. I am nothing if not a creature of habit.
  • Beef stew, homemade vegetable soup and Brunswick stew in the crock pot simmering all afternoon. And corn bread.
  • The piano. I am drawn to play again, even though doing so locks up my back and wrists for days.

I know that everything isn’t golden in the way it is depicted in art, but somehow, it seems that way. Even if I don’t make it to Skyline Drive, something I haven’t done in too many years, the golds and deep reds of the changing leaves are firmly imprinted in memory.

As I draw to a close, the sky is no longer visible. The air is cool and damp, and everything smells a little bit like bread and wet dog, and it’s a strangely comforting combination.

More later. Peace.

Music by Darius Rucker, “It Won’t Be Like This Forever”

                   

Du siehst, ich will viel (You see, I want a lot)

You see, I want a lot.
Perhaps I want everything:
the darkness that comes with every infinite fall
and the shivering blaze of every step up.

So many live on and want nothing,
and are raised to the rank of prince
by the slippery ease of their light judgments.

But what you love to see are faces
that do work and feel thirst.

You love most of all those who need you
as they need a crowbar or a hoe.

You have not grown old, and it is not too late
to dive into your increasing depths
where life calmly gives out its own secret.

~ Rainer Maria Rilke (trans. Robert Bly)

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2 thoughts on ““Sometimes, I feel the past and the future pressing so hard on either side that there’s no room for the present at all.” ~ Evelyn Waugh, from Brideshead Revisited

  1. No rain here, not even any mist. But cooler, yes! Funny how it’s still humid when it’s raining and cool, but it seems so much more pleasurable than sticky and hot. My clothes feel better on me when it’s cooler…

    That “Blue Oblivion” song keeps going through my head…

    I always wanted to go to Sweet Briar for college… but THAT didn’t happen.

    All my Octobers blend together these days… Maybe I will lose all my memories…

    Finished my homework and test today, managed a 90 even though some of the questions were on terms that didn’t actually appear in the chapter, which has been happening all along… I think this teacher has so many irons in the fire that he can’t be bothered to read over the test questions to see if they “fit”.

    The library and the book store have this monthly newspaper-like book review ( called “Book Page” at the library). I read about books in that, and also what the book club folks bring up, lists Amazon sends me, what Oprah magazine lists, and I have a few friends that are readers. One of them was my ex-boss at the library and her SON sends me/the book club lists of things to read – and you can bet it’s good if he likes it. This Mark Adams book is one that I saw when I went in to borrow the book “Quiet”. I do belong to Good Reads, and I’m trying to figure out how this Riffle thing works…

    I like to read any time… fall, winter, spring, summer. I really like to read on the porch… but I’ve got a great red chair and a neat lamp set up in the living room, an okay chair and an okay lamp with a window that looks out onto the hazelnut tree in the bedroom, and then there’s always my bed…

    Well, we have a three day weekend since Columbus Day is tomorrow… Another day to read! Hope it is a good one for you…

    • “Blue Oblivion” is a great song.

      Oh yes, Sweet Briar. Far too rich for my pocketbook.

      I think that I might talk to the instructor who is testing you on material not yet relevant . . .

      I stopped going to the public library so many years ago. Part of it arises from my need to own every book that I read, my reluctance to part with any book. But also, the libraries around here are abysmal, mostly e-books, computer stations, very few books. It’s too sad, really. Now when I was teaching at ODU, that library was always a haven for me, and of course, when you’re around people who are reading all of the time, it rubs off. You’re very lucky to have such contacts for titles.

      Hope you get some cooling rain and have a lovely afternoon reading.

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