It appears that fall is here. The nights have become chilly & the days cool & breezy. The maple trees continue to change color, with reds & yellows predominating. The days have been clear & sunny & gloriously autumnal, with that particular smell in the air–or of the air–which I cannot really characterize. The life of the woods & garden is most intense this time of year, the colors heightened, the sounds (blue jays) sharpened.
I like to sleep & I sleep well in this weather, the breeze making its low noise in the branches, but I fear to dream, for most of my dreams are set in that other world–the world in which I was not ill–so that I wake always back into the reality of my illness.
It is very early autumn here in the north country, the tops of the maples just beginning to change color while the lower branches remain green. The days are warm, the nights cool. This morning after Carole left for work I took the dogs out on the deck with me and sat for a while enjoying the still-cool morning air, the warm sun, the breeze. The sky was an expanse of pure blue beyond description & the river picked up that color, the surface broken by small wavelets that sent points of brilliant silver light in every direction. It occurred to me that, despite everything, this was the most beautiful morning of my life. Or perhaps it was because of everything. The ten-thousand things in perfect harmony, so that even the sound of a truck grinding its gears as it rattled over the bridge fit perfectly into the music of the morning.
The leaves have been turning color and falling for a couple of weeks now, but today was the first day they fell in great numbers, all at once, in big, wind-driven swirls. We’ve had waves of wind and rain all afternoon and the trees, though some still have green leaves, are noticably more naked. (Is the use of naked in that last sentence an example of what Cleanth Brooks would call the pathetic fallacy? Screw him.) Just now as I write this, a few shafts of late sun are breaking through and throwing an erie but beautiful light on the pines and maples across the road, which are glowing green and orange as if from within. A real Wordsworthian sort of moment, a brief gleam fading now before I finish the sentence.
Our bedroom window looks out over the river, though this time of year the leaves of the maple trees mostly screen our view of the water. This morning I woke around six-thirty and looked out at the trees bathed in soft morning light. The leaves are turning orange now, though there is still quite a bit of green, especially by the water. I could hear Canada geese making a racket over by the island — really a sandbar with some low bushes on it — near the bridge that carries the highway over the river a half mile down stream from us. It is fall. Tonight we built the first fire of the season in the woodstove.
At school I have been reading tenure files and writing tenure letters, teaching, meeting with two groups of independent study students, teaching my classes. I have also volunteered for a couple of departmental committees, though I am trying to be a little less involved in such work than I have been in the past and am not serving on any university-wide committees. Amazingly, with a couple of retirements this year, I will be among the most senior members of my department. I’m enjoying my teaching this term, though yesterday my poetry students sat on their hands and looked down at their books, giving every evidence of not having read the assigned work. They’ll be getting a quiz on Monday. Same as it ever was.
Later: Why give them a quiz? It is what it is. Why impose my authority that way? Doesn’t it ruin the poetry? Well, I say in reply to myself, they can’t get the poetry — the real juice of it that I love and believe they might love — if they don’t read the poems.
I put the bird feeders up this weekend and dumped the dirt out of the big ceramic pots I grow herbs & peppers in during the summer. Took the screes down and put them in the shed & stacked the wooden deck chairs under a tarp. I’ve still got a few more things to button down in the yard, but the fall chores are nearly done. The first day there were no takers (that I saw) on the feeders, but yesterday as I was out working I saw a pair of nuthatches making regular trips between the feeder & the pine. Elegant little birds. Then, later, a hairy woodpecker put in an appearance. I feel very satisfied in the fall most years & this year especially so. My life is easy now, though it wasn’t always so. The thing about an easy life is that it requires responsibility. No one deserves an easy life — or everyone does — but if you’re luck you should do something with your luck. I mean me, of course. What is it Camus says in The Rebel? That what you wish for yourself you must wish for everyone.