Take everything else, if you must, but leave me the light.
These early autumn days, I live for the play of the more merciful sun, entwined in the diminishing trees. The woods and the waters resume a quiet they cannot manage in mid-summer, and suddenly I find my heart has settled into something like peace.
Each welcome gift of the fall — the cooler temperatures, the promise of less traffic, the last hurrah of the wildflowers — goldenrod spread like dyed wool in the meadow, milkweed swelling, black-eyed Susans bowing, even the loosestrife lingering — all foreshadow that brief window in the seasonal calendar before we turn toward winter.
Midweek last, I went out early one morning to enjoy another sunny day announcing itself and to gather the laundry I’d left hanging on the line overnight. The sweat of the elements was still on it, rings of dew that had not yet dried, small patches that needed a little more time to press water into air and return the fabrics to their usual, consistent colors. I stood on the recently repaired deck for a long moment, considered dragging out a bentwood twig rocker and then thought better of it. I was in the mood for something more earthly, something as substantial — and changing — as the parade of time, so I walked back into the house and through the first floor, to the back entrance.
Just outside, the drying clothes waited for me to attend to them, along with a pole of wooden scrap molding that has remained untouched, uncut, all summer long. Eventually, I will have to get back to it — like all my interrupted good intentions — and saw or break it into kindling for the wood stove. But for now, it is a task that can wait, as I am, for more moderate temperatures and the energy they bring.
I sat down on the big boulder that provides a foundation for one side of the little cabin and breathed deeply in the morning air, like a black bear on its haunches, sniffing for prey. But I was looking for different nourishment, the calm in the canopy, contentment in the shadows.
It is probably impossible to sell the joys of simplicity to a world full of technology that makes everything immediate and known — all the time. Unless someone has eschewed the privilege of convenience, with its costs, and instant communication and its lack of perspective or discernment, they are not likely to make sense of why I own no TV, no microwave, or my choices to live without a reliable landline and limit the number of pans and skillets in the house to four.
I am on my way out — not of time but of acquisition.
I am not likely to be found most days, during my free time, at the mall or boutique, in an elegant restaurant or veranda bar. I’m not saying it’s a better use of time or energy, but my leisure takes me away from what we ordinarily think of as the world into nature, where whole realms are enacting the drama and struggle of survival.
Thus, the morning I spent mere minutes perched on a boulder watching the woodlands, I observed a grasshopper that had taken refuge in the shadow of one of the support beams on the shed. It never moved, though I circled around it, examining the detail of its design and color, the success of its strivings reflected in its size and length.
I discovered a single black-eyed Susan in bloom in the half-light created by the cover of the shed and the trees beyond. I saw where the ants had been working frenetically all summer, their mounds and the sawdust remains.
But mostly I witnessed the light, the intensities and layers of it blending into each other and awakening in the late summer forest a thousand shades of green — almost as though it were early spring and the leaves were just coming to life.
They are on their way out, too, the first fall changes revealed in subtle yellows and a few leaves discarded from the birch. I was sitting in an old, old sanctuary, and I knew it, the temple of creation and all the natural piety there.
I did not stay long; pilgrims must move on, even if the destination is uncertain and their companions few. Still, I felt blessed standing in the light, slit as though refracted through a prism or as if bobbing on the surface of the bay. I paused and praised the gods of mortal form that endure, even if changed. I silently spoke my prayer, my petition, my credo: Let these live on.
I sang within myself a hymn of wonder, then wrapped myself in marvel, and humbled, offered up my alms: gratitude and whole-hearted greeting of the day.
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