The poet was remembering a friend who had recently died, when he wrote:
Today the cold rain falls,
A north wind shakes the walls,
The sound earth turns to mud.
The river in brown flood
Will not return the clay
It lifts and bears away.
Now may love equal fear,
As death begins the year.
Again the air is full
of falling: the fall of the leaves
in the weighty season that brings
all home again to the lowly
miracle from which they came.
Nature, the mother and maker,
requires that life take form,
enflesh itself in the shapes
and habits of the world’s unnumbered
kinds. And then she requires
each one at last to shed
its guise, giving up
its matter to the life to come.
Think of a world of no fall,
no gravity, calling downward,
homeward, bringing all
by the light uprisen down
to rest in the resting land
— a world, instead, where all
that dies would fly upward
and outward, nameless and alone.
How sterile then would be
the earth, seasonless the year.
The year is the showing forth
of the heavenly love that is
the being of the present world.
The leaves, opening and at last
falling, hold a while
the beauty of God who made them
by the work and care of Nature,
His vicar and our mother.
His only is the light
of which all things are made,
the beauty that they are,
the delight that is our prayer.
In the fall, the fresh air and thin, slanted light combine to put so many things in a new, or renewed, perspective. When I read the poem below, I found myself searching my surroundings for images that fit the poet’s words.
Down at the creek I had seen the leaves starting to turn, so I took their picture. But between now and then I’ve noticed so many other things even closer by that are infused with energy, and at the same time invite me to an intangible, but most real, resting place.
The sky bright after summer-ending rain,
I sat against an oak half up the climb.
The sun was low; the woods was hushed in shadow;
Now the long shimmer of the crickets’ song
Had stopped. I looked up to the westward ridge
And saw the ripe October light again,
Shining through leaves still green yet turning gold.
Those glowing leaves made of the light a place
That time and leaf would leave. The wind came cool,
And then I knew that I was present in
The long age of the passing world, in which
I once was not, now am, and will not be,
And in that time, beneath the changing tree,
I rested in a keeping not my own.