Though the great song return no more
There’s keen delight in what we have;
The rattle of pebbles on the shore
Under the receding wave.
–W.B. Yeats “The Nineteenth Century and After,” 1933
The early morning chill has given way to a milder early afternoon warming that I am able to endure easily with a dark grey sweater recently retrieved from the closet since being returned there last spring. The autumn weather has been relatively kind this year so far, and the forecast for the upcoming week promises even milder temperatures by week’s end. With luck, I will be able to take advantage of the opportunity to reap the benefits of a little more fair weather before the winter arrives.
As I type these words, the world-at-large continues to operate as usual around me, with a number of discernible and identifiable sounds reverberating in the near-background of the moment. I have been able to pick out the roar of passing car engines, the barely audible words of a conversation a short distance away, an even more distant squawk of an emergency vehicle siren, all while contemplating the thoughts which brought me to sit out in the yard in the first place.
I close my eyes momentarily when the silence begins to creep back and the traffic subsides, and the siren ceases. I am soothed by the barely noticeable rustling of the leaves in the gentle wind. I am reminded of the presence of our two outdoor cats by their usual brief chirping to alert me to their wish for attention. With a sudden surge of the autumn wind, fallen leaves begin to scratch their way across the pavement, with the wind itself stirring and flowing around the buildings, a number of leaves begin to fall around me and land on my keyboard.
Sipping on my third cup of coffee for the day out in the backyard, there is a distinct feel to both the soothing nature of a gentle autumn wind, and the play of sunlight and shadows, as the limbs of the tree above me bob and weave with the wind. The engine of a passing airplane groans along its path across the sky momentarily distracting me from my attention to the words flowing from within.
Again, the creeping silence returns, and I close my eyes again for a moment to absorb the sounds in the stillness. Early afternoon in our suburban neighborhood generally doesn’t produce such moments very often, and I am both delighted and emboldened by the coincidence. My heart still aches a bit from the awareness of the impending loss of the pleasing warmth such an afternoon can provide, knowing full-well that there will be a few others before they are gone completely. If not for the abundance of greenery still available to me in the yard, it would likely feel less comforting to sit and look around between sentences.
There are a few tell-tale signs of the approaching changes in the colors of the season, but for now, they are limited to the tips of the trees and a few isolated patches of color in a few places. It won’t be long before the ground is completely obscured by the falling leaves from a half-dozen trees that surround me, but for now, I can revel in the same feel-good sensations of lush green leaves that are soon to resume their trek toward winter.
Reading an article yesterday in the paper about the giant sequoia trees gave me an excuse to contemplate and ruminate on the recent events which included both the demise of one tree and the enhanced appreciation of those which remain.
The life of a tree on my modest property in a suburban neighborhood may not seem especially notable by comparison to the behemoths in the forests of northern California, but I was absolutely struck by the notion of how similar they actually are by their very nature, differing only in their unique species and in their epic proportions mostly. The sequoias are like skyscrapers in the woods, hundreds of years old and formidable by every metric one might apply to arboreal beings. The decades-old sugar maples in the yard are by comparison much less formidable, but as entities in the grand scheme of local species, quite impressive none-the-less.
As I prepare to relinquish the pleasures of a mild autumn afternoon, I take a brief pause to absorb the heat of the sunlight on my face, inhale deeply the fresh air, and allow the gentle wind to caress my face before I step back inside and set out on the day’s adventures.