Marking the heart of the harvest season (in this hemisphere, at least), the autumn equinox should be our Thanksgiving holiday. That’s my contention, anyway. Apples, grapes, blackberries, beans, ‘taters-precious, summer barley all ripe for picking and reaping . . . lots to be grateful for.
This is also when the Wheel turns to the dark of the year.
There are those who love the wonders of spring and summer best. I love them dearly, but as I’m sure I’ve mentioned, every year at Mabon, a part of me I didn’t notice had fallen asleep stirs and rouses. Every year as we pass this station of the sun, I suddenly re-attune to the magics of the dying of the year that, for me, feel far more palpable than the magics of its renewal.
I like to imagine that in times past, the harvest was a communal event with lots of hard work every day and lots of music, dance, songs, stories, poetry, food & drink, and love-making every night.
Times have changed. No gatherings in ‘Murica this year. Well, none except for the protests and the militarized responses to them, the freedom-not-masks COVID denier events (church services, rallies, weddings & funerals, whatevers), sports, back-to-school curricular and extra-curricular activities, and the “just tired of it” crowd’s BBQs, birthday celebrations, pool parties, and back-to-normal weekends out and about.
Tangent Alert: Despite the alternate facts that have spread and are still spreading on social media, it has been conclusively proven that BLM protests have NOT exacerbated the spread of COVID-19. Conversely, COVID-19 cases have surged dramatically after every holiday (Memorial Day, 4th of July, Labor Day), a single wedding in Maine was responsible for reversing the entire state’s progress against the virus, across the nation schools and colleges opened, then had to quickly shut down again after large numbers of students and staff immediately tested positive, and in our county, certainly, the #1 cause of COVID’s continuing spread is small “safe” gatherings of friends & family to watch the big game or celebrate little Ashley’s 1st tooth.
In my mostly COVID-conscious corner of the nation, all music, dancing, singing, storytelling, and recitals of poetry are streamed or Zoomed. Those of us sheltering with someone we love still have the love-making option available. But too many of you reading this haven’t had so much as a hug in 7 months.
Can’t give you that hug, but I do have an autumnal poem to share with you in honor of Equinox Eve.
There are several fit the bill, and two that came in a close third and second. To give the runners-up their due . . .
Maggie Smith’s First Fall really spoke to me, but her ending:
. . . I’m desperate for you / To love the world because I brought you here.
triggers my guilt at being part of the generation that — barring several miracles — has doomed our children and grandchildren to live with economic oppression, under authoritarian rule, and on the brink of planetary destruction.
Perhaps because I was introduced to him early on (“My Shadow” was one of the first poems I remember hearing as a child, definitely one of the first I could recite from memory), perhaps because he later fed my craving for swashbuckling adventure with Treasure Island and Kidnapped, I’ve always been fond of Robert Louis Stevenson. “Autumn Fires” (from A Child’s Garden of Verses) is a marvelous homage to the season. Unfortunately, the lines
The red fire blazes, / The grey smoke towers.
Flowers in the summer, / Fires in the fall!
resound with depressing accuracy in this climate-changed locale. And tonight I refuse to succumb to wildfire depression. In fact, I’m optimistically expecting the sea breezes that have already cleared the air a town over to cross the ridge and do the same for us.
Without more ado, here it is: a poem for this night. May it please you, and blessed be.
FALL LEAVES FALL
Fall, leaves, fall; die, flowers, away;
Lengthen night and shorten day;
Every leaf speaks bliss to me,
Fluttering from the autumn tree.
I shall smile when wreaths of snow
Blossom where the rose should grow;
I shall sing when night’s decay
Ushers in a drearier day.
Emily Brontë (1818-1848)