“Don’t you imagine the leaves dream now/ how comfortable it will be to touch/ the earth” –Mary Oliver, Song for Autumn
This time of year always pricks my spirit with quiet longing. The cool brush of air carries the merest whiff of fallen leaves. Hints of red and gold creep into the foliage. Mushrooms, plump and bright, pop up in all shapes and colors. The first taste of autumn is sweet and promising. It fills my soul with nostalgia, yet readies my heart for change.
The shift of the seasons into autumn offers a unique comfort. And this year more than most, I find the people around me ready for fall to come. We’re ready for spiced bread and hot apple cider. Crisp mornings with mist rising over the grass. Sweaters, comfy socks, and smoke rising from chimneys. However, I think our longing for autumn goes a bit deeper than a desire for pumpkin spice lattes. Autumn, with all its abundant comforts, encourages us to settle. To pause, steady, and breathe. It’s a season of change–nature winding down and readying herself for winter–and yet the change brings with it beauty.
Autumn is a yearly reminder that change is a natural, necessary part of life; that change itself can be a comfort. With the world still reeling in uncertainty over COVID-19, we could all use a little steadying. We need a reminder that nature is still marching forward, that time goes on; that this, too, will pass. Change has come. Change will come again. The shifting of our society may be frightening, but the world isn’t yet coming to an end.
In the poem below, Mary Oliver describes nature itself as longing for the change of autumn. Her words pulse with a resounding calm that quiets me. I hope her words inspire you, too, to slow down and rest for a moment, to breathe deep and find comfort in this shifting season.
Song for Autumn
by Mary Oliver
Don’t you imagine the leaves dream now
how comfortable it will be to touch
the earth instead of the
nothingness of the air and the endless
freshets of wind? And don’t you think
the trees, especially those with
mossy hollows, are beginning to look for
the birds that will come–six, a dozen– to sleep
inside their bodies? And don’t you hear
the goldenrod whispering goodbye,
the everlasting being crowned with the first
tuffets of snow? The pond
stiffens and the white field over which
the fox runs so quickly brings out
its long blue shadows. The wind wags
its many tails. And in the evening
the piled firewood shifts a little,
longing to be on its way.
(For more on autumn, check out Vagabond Song: Why Poetry, Wanderlust, and Autumn are Three Peas In a Pod)