Wednesday, October 5, 2011


Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;
To bend with apples the moss'd cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease ...

from "To Autumn" by John Keats

To start out with Keats may not be the best way to begin. His lines aren't quite as boisterous as I'd like - not quite as long and lithe and lovely the way I think of the autumn, but they are beautiful. He manages to stuff into his line the exact words you want to think of when you think of autumn. "Load, swell, plump, fruit, apples, gourd, hazel..." wonderful. I taught Blueberry to yell that first line, "Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness!" because it just has such a good "mouth feel." The way the s's slip on your tongue and the alliteration is just gorgeous. Just like a big poetic bite of apple pie or spoonful of spiced pumpkin soup. I digress. Keats has a way of bringing out this on-the-verge-of-cliche romanticism in me. I feel rich and old-fashioned when I read Keats. Autumn is rich. I've suddenly noticed autumn; I never paid much mind to as a child and young adult, preferring the showy glory of spring and summer. But autumn is rich, mellow, heavy with ripeness and spice. Perhaps I'm getting old, hence my new fondness for autumn and the Romantics. Autumn used to excite me because of the smell of new books, the plunge into new classes, the beginning of semester zeal that grabbed me. Now it's more of a mellow appreciation, to borrow Keats' word. A time to enjoy the briony blackening on the vine, to watch the harvest burden the shelves and stalls of our local farmers market, to think about gathering in, storing, making fast the plenty.

It's easy to become discontented, I've noticed. I see it in my sweet Blueberry even. She, in her honest way, wants more, demands more, the more she sees what others have. You look around your home, your life, and instead of seeing what is present, you see lack. I recently, if you've been reading my posts you'll understand, went through a binge of cleaning out stuff. Unloading. I took a lot of Blueberry's toys to our local Goodwill, clothes and shoes to the Planet Aid box. It felt great. Blueberry wasn't so sure. Things she'd rarely played with suddenly became precious. I tried to explain to her that if we had less, she'd appreciate what we had more. That concept, clearly lost on a four year old, appealed to me. I really thought it was true. Less is more, right? The less you have, the less you need. It makes sense.

The truth is that we don't have less. One quick ride in the car on a sunny autumn afternoon to our local farm market proved me wrong. Blueberry got out of the car and ran amongst a veritable sea of pumpkins and gourds, exclaiming, "Look at all this treasure!"

To look around at the bounty of the harvest, to see it as treasure along with my daughter, suddenly filled me with a rich contentment. We're incredibly fortunate to live where we live - the bounty of sea and soil is ours for the taking, for the storing, for the stocking up and tucking in. We were able to buy eggs, honey, syrup, tomatoes, strawberries (yes, in October!), grapes, gourds, pumpkins, zucchini, flowers, cider and apples. All grown or harvested right here. It was humbling and satisfying to see what lay waiting for us to gather.

We got to fill our baskets to the brim and then some. We got to take it all home and stow it tidily in the refrigerator, cupboards, pantry. Blueberry helps me joyfully unload the baskets and says, "Wow, we have enough for a feast!" It's true. This is the season of overflow. Of vines and branches dripping with fruit. Nature puts on an almost gluttonous funeral feast for the dying year and we get to reap her bounty. We are the kings of autumn.

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