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!”
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?
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:
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.