Saturday, September 11, 2010

Setting for Spring

Move onward Life; we cannot stop to grieve.
The seed demands the soil, that it may live;
This mystery of contact, strange, devout
In union, as the general scheme of love.
See, in our careful hoard of leaf-mould, sprout
Chestnuts from conkers, little pallid leaf
Of beech from mast, from acorn little oak,
Each in their germination hopefully
Intent on growing to a forest tree;
Close consequence that seed and soil provoke!

So Autumn’s not the end, not the last rung
Of any ladder in the yearly climb,
When that is deathly old which was once young,
Since time’s no ladder but a constant wheel
Like an old paddled mill that dips and churns
The mill-race, and upon the summit turns
Unceasingly to heel
Over, and scoop fresh water out of time.

Autumn’s a preparation for renewal,
Yet not entirely shorn
Of tardy beauty, last and saddest jewel
Bedizening where it may not adorn.

--Vita Sackville-West, selections from her extended poem, The Garden (1946)

Shadows lengthen in the midday sun, and the etiolated leaves grant the waning days a luster of amber that accentuates a fading life. The sun at this time of year is peculiarly golden; soft morning light and the hues of dusk bathe plants in ocular warmth, momentarily resuscitating the withering garden, casting a magical spell that commands the garden too shall return.

As one gardening season winds down, as the chlorophyll drains from trees, as leaves so early in September turn to pallid green and shades of yellow, another season begins to set: buds appear on the Pieris japonica and the rhododendron, offering us signs of the early and mid- spring glory to come.

Pieris sends out long tendrils of delicate, diminutive buds that belie its fortitude throughout the harsh winter.

An act of unplanned parallelism comes to my attention: the rhododendron and Rose Mallow echo each others’ fuschia overtones, providing spring – summer/autumn, northeast – northwest counterpoints in the garden. The parallelism is only an act of mind, however. Those who forget and those who dare not remember lose the subtle flavoring of life—the very flavoring that so often peppers the years, the very flavoring that constitutes our lives, the very flavoring that is so easily lost to time and to more prodigious events.

Those subtleties, the very ordinariness that marks the daily passing of our lives and constitutes in many deep senses a person, were poignantly captured by The New York Times in the weeks and months that followed that tragedy we commemorate today. Not intended to be traditional obituaries, “Portraits of Grief” "informally and impressionistically" depicted lives through "idiosyncratic," subtle prisms that so eloquently, so movingly, revealed the essence of personalities lived.

Those subtleties are the well-spring of life that recall pasts yet propel us into futures.

** In memory of all those who lost their lives on 11 September 2001 **

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