That time of year thou mayst in me behold

IMG_2042I can’t stop looking up, these days.

I have a little checklist that lives in my head, of possible future blog post subjects.  Which is a far cry from an actual stash of posts, sitting on a cyber-shelf, awaiting their designated publication date.  My list is made of thought bubbles only, beyond ethereal.  And yet, I’m reassured, somehow, to know I’ve got a couple of topic sentences squirreled away for future consideration, when I might otherwise be staring at an empty screen and not know where to begin.



Then I have a day like today, a day that pushes all other topics aside and demands to be memorialized.  Put that list away!



What is it that makes these end-of-season mornings, afternoons, and evenings so heart-string-plucking glorious?  The light filtered through yellow maple leaves. The air, blissfully and blessedly soft and warm.  The glorious sky, an embarrassment of blue, in excess by any measure. 



 These days demand to be paid attention to and duly noted.  I feel like I barely have a choice about making time to see, really see, these glorious days.  It’s required.  And there’s something urgent in the light this time of year, particularly at this point in my life.  This autumn more than any that have come before.   “Pay attention to me!” my whole world seems to be saying.  “Look up! Look around!  It’ll be gone before you know it!”

IMG_1888Look up.  Look down.  Look all around!



I keep stopping in my tracks—on the back porch, in the middle of grocery store parking lots, walking along brick sidewalks.  I keep taking photos, sometimes of the same tree, same branch, same leaves, day after day, until the leaves are in a puddle of foliage on the sidewalk.  I keep finding bits of sky and shadows of trees that need to be remembered.   I seek out the moonrises on these cerulean sky evenings, walking home.   I am startled from the depths of sleep, when the selfsame moon wakes me, on its arc across the pre-dawn sky, setting as the sun rises.  A few days will pass, I will have forgotten to be on the lookout, and–oh!  The moon will take me by surprise once more, in the form of a fingernail, dangling in the middle of a bright blue midday sky.   


Does anyone ever grow old enough to stop being astonished by this miracle of time passing?

IMG_1900shadows and light, all over town.


If one more remarkable morning this autumn wasn’t enough, I had another treat waiting for me today.  My day began with a sonnet, because my first email of the day is almost always the one that The Writer’s Almanac delivers to my inbox.  And today, it began with William Shakespeare’s ode to growing old, to fading sunsets and black nights, and to love—blessed, unswerving love that soldiers on, even in the face of an ever more assured end to come.  An ode to autumn, and to That Time of Year Thou Mayst in Me Behold:



Sonnet 73


That time of year thou mayst in me behold
When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,
Bare ruined choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.
In me thou see’st the twilight of such day
As after sunset fadeth in the west;
Which by and by black night doth take away,
Death’s second self, that seals up all in rest.
In me thou see’st the glowing of such fire,
That on the ashes of his youth doth lie,
As the death-bed whereon it must expire
Consumed with that which it was nourish’d by.
This thou perceivest, which makes thy love more strong,
To love that well which thou must leave ere long.



I remember this sonnet vividly from my English 10 days, one stop on a classic collegiate romp from Beowulf to Virginia Woolf.   What I don’t remember is having any sense that Shakespeare’s  words could ever feel so specifically relatable to me.  Ah, what a difference three decades makes.  That time of year? Thou mayst in me behold?  Oh, baby, yeah.  I am feeling so very autumnal, so twilight.  So not spry.  So brittle.  So much a shadow of my former self, in so many ways.


It’s not like I’m careening into old age here.  Ere long is still a long, long way away, god willing.  But the sense of things coming round to a new beginning, or to the beginning of a last installment—that I am keenly aware of, these days. 

I got a call-back from a mammogram.  I’ve put the to-do list of that event behind me, and I feel done with it.  Ready to re-up for something resembling my regularly scheduled programming, maybe even a new, improved version of life as I’ve known it.

And yet, and yet.  You brush up against your mortality, and you are introduced to a fact that never seems quite so obvious to the young, to the carefree: that there is an inevitable end for us all.  We are all of us, mortal. There are only so many glorious blue sky days in any one life.  The time to start remembering to cherish them might as well be today.


Which, again, circles round to being acutely aware of the days, these days.  The sun, the sky, the moon, the stars.  The people I love.  The music that makes me teary.  The books I can pick up and start reading any page and know where I am, as with an old friend.  The thrill of ones I have yet to read.  The taste of Julia Child’s applesauce, of my applesauce.  The loves in my life.  The light, this time of year. 

It’s all connected.




13 comments on “That time of year thou mayst in me behold

  1. LH says:

    p e r f e c t .

  2. I’m still astonished. No question. xox

  3. melanie says:

    ….and I thought you were going to talk about the Red Sox. Read this at 5AM and wanted to reply but needed to clear my head first with a walk.

  4. Tamara says:

    Yes! and Thank you, you’ve described it perfectly – just the way I feel! And thank you Lindsey Mead for pointing me here, to these beautiful words.

  5. Chris says:

    Wow what a nice piece! All of your observations and musins are so on target! Wonderful words to look back on when feeling a little melancholy.

  6. Andy Macomber says:

    Hi Kris, This is my very favorite post from you, the words as well as the pictures. Each one illustrates the other in harmony. I liked those glorious tree leaves becoming a puddle of foliage, and your description of watching moon phases. I loved the word picture of picking up a book and opening any page an knowing where you are, like with an old friend.

    I liked the terrific pictures you took of fall foliage, which preserved for me what a great fall season this has been. I especially like the almost bare branch with a leaf that looked like a scarlet tanager.

    I’m going to see if I can find the poem called Ode to Margaret. Hope you are up for a visit tomorrow. I can get Dave to take me to Cambridge and back.

    Love, your golden-years-mom

  7. All right, there are two tears sliding down, the first out of the left and generally more excitable eye; the second out of the right. I feel it too, all of it, and am not wasting a second of angled sun, or a single bright leaf, my love.

  8. wolfmane says:

    WOW. I followed Julie Zickefoose over here, and decided to stay. Permanently. Your musings shook me, and I’m not easily shaken. Thank you.

  9. Beautiful, absolutely beautiful.

  10. robin andrea says:

    Thanks to Julie Zickefoose for linking to this beautiful post. You write of something here that we should all be talking about around the old fires, in the dark night. There is a longing to remember this, that all we have are our four seasons of life… nothing more, nothing less. It is a beautiful reckoning with time.

  11. Pat Condello says:

    Thank you for sharing such lovely photos and musings. You describe many of the same things I am feeling this time of year. I also followed Julie Zickefoose over her & plan to stay.

  12. jfrancoeur says:

    “Emily: Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it?–every, every minute?

    Stage Manager: No. The saints and poets, maybe–they do some.”
    ― Thornton Wilder

    Thank you for shining a bright beam on life, love, “bits of sky and shadows of trees”…. with your pure poetry K. You help me feel it all.
    Thanks also to Andy for the scarlet tanager-leaf likeness. Lovely.

  13. khmacomber says:

    wow. I’m overwhelmed. Thank you all for your kind words.


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