Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The exquisite withering

Chill early morning air. Dawn light glowing through the mist that lingers around the trees. Damp spider webs draped like curtains across the trail. Wild turkeys everywhere.

Oh, yes, the season is about to change. We may be killing the earth but so far it shows no inclination to stop waltzing around the sun. Soon the trees will commence their exquisite withering. The box turtle that wanted to fight me this morning over a delectable toadstool will go to ground, and the last hummingbird will depart.

In fall, nature shimmers with an aura of good death--transformative, liberating death. Life ends so that it can begin again. Collapse is renewal. That's the mystery and the resolution.

Though the black swan’s arched neck is like   
       A question-mark on the lake,
The swan outlaws all possible questioning:   
A thing in itself, like love, like submarine   
Disaster, or the first sound when we wake;
       And the swan-song it sings
    Is the huge silence of the swan.

Illusion: the black swan knows how to break   
       Through expectation, beak
Aimed now at its own breast, now at its image,   
And move across our lives, if the lake is life,   
And by the gentlest turning of its neck
       Transform, in time, time’s damage;
    To less than a black plume, time’s grief.

From "The Black Swan" by James Merrill--a poem that has always evoked for me the beautiful face of death. You can read a very different interpretation from Charles Simic here.

Autumn landscape with a flock of turkeys, Jean-Francois Millet, c.1873

1 comment:

Michael Sims said...

Grace, I like your comments even more than I like the Merrill poem. Sharp thoughts elegantly shaped.