I know it is the first day of autumn. I know it is the first day of autumn because
- they told me this morning on NPR,
- my husband, Tom, made beef barley vegetable soup,
- I made applesauce with some decent apples,
- The Washington, DC football team (my home team for over twenty-five years) was just beaten by the Detroit Lions (my back home home team) today,
- the dogwood leaves are turning red,
- the squirrels—crazy to bury the black walnuts—messed up the lettuce plants and radish, swiss chard, and beet seeds I planted yesterday, and
- the blue jays scold me from the branches.
Also: A week ago, when I was recovering from a fearsome case of poison ivy/oak/sumac/something and feeling sad, a murder of crows kept me company from my neighbor’s juniper tree. I notice they hang out together more when fall is coming.
About the dogwood: Our old dogwood is turning red early because it is dying. More precisely, it has dieback. We can’t bear to get rid of it quite yet—and the birds and bugs love it, too —so the tree will continue a while longer with Tom and me. Both of us as well as the dogwood have lived to much more advanced ages than John Keats did. Before he went, he managed to write a poem about autumn. I tip my cup of soup to him and his poem:
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,
For Summer has o’er-brimm’d their clammy cells.
Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
Or on a half-reap’d furrow sound asleep,
Drows’d with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers:
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
Steady thy laden head across a brook;
Or by a cyder-press, with patient look,
Thou watchest the last oozings hours by hours.
Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,–
While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
Among the river sallows, borne aloft
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
The red-breast whistles from a garden-croft;
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.
John Keats (composed in 1819)