What Else by Carolyn Locke

The way the trees empty themselves of leaves,

let drop their ponderous fruit,

the way the turtle abandons the sun-warmed log,

the way even the late-blooming aster

succumbs to the power of frost—

this is not a new story.

Still, on this morning, the hollowness

of the season startles, filling

the rooms of your house, filling the world

with impossible light, improbable hope.

And so, what else can you do

but let yourself be broken

and emptied? What else is there

but waiting in the autumn sun?

What Else

Yesterday was autumn equinox, when the hours of light are equal to those of darkness marking the advent of this ripening season for us.

Locke tells us the particular ways that this season announces itself – the trees dropping their leaves, their fruit, the way the turtle abandons the sun-warmed log, how the aster is felled by the frost – this is not a new story she reminds us, this is how the wheel of the year turns time out of mind.

It’s true how the air has a different feel, not just temperature, but a sense of emptying out while at the same time filling the world / with impossible light, improbable hope. The soft light of autumn has a luminous quality not found in other seasons which also holds for me the seemingly-unlikely promise of hope that life continues even in the dying of the year.

And so, what else can you do / but let yourself be broken / and emptied? I love questions like this that can scarcely be refused. Can we allow the endings of the season to open us to new possibilities? And now we are waiting in the autumn sun, waiting for what may unfold next with that shawl of warmth against our necks.

What else is there but to be in the moment, alive and aware of all that is transforming around us. What else? What else is there?

I’m including a link to this poem, a lovely tribute to Ruth Bader Ginsburg https://www.rattle.com/in-the-steps-of-rbg-by-rosemerry-wahtola-trommer/

And Now It’s September, by Barbara Crooker

and the garden diminishes: cucumber leaves rumpled
and rusty, zucchini felled by borers, tomatoes sparse
on the vines. But out in the perennial beds, there’s one last
blast of color: ignitions of goldenrod, flamboyant
asters, spiraling mums, all those flashy spikes waving
in the wind, conducting summer’s final notes.
The ornamental grasses have gone to seed, haloed
in the last light. Nights grow chilly, but the days
are still warm; I wear the sun like a shawl on my neck
and arms. Hundreds of blackbirds ribbon in, settle
in the trees, so many black leaves, then, just as suddenly,
they’re gone. This is autumn’s great Departure Gate,
and everyone, boarding passes in hand, waits
patiently in a long, long line.

And Now It’s September

No doubt about the season, just as Crooker describes. I picked the last tomatoes yesterday after the frost warning and contemplated cucumbers just to see their rumpled and rusty leaves, such a gorgeous phrase.

My heart springs open to see the fall flowers, especially zinnias with their extravagant colours, all those flashy spikes waving / in the wind, conducting summer’s final notes. The magnificent music of summer’s bounty and the tall grasses haloed in the last light, a sight that always makes me pause in wonder.

Can’t you just feel the sun’s warmth reading her words I wear the sun like a shawl on my neck / and arms. And the black leaves of the blackbirds gathering in trees before leaving us wingless creatures to face the colder weather.

It is the final line that captures the essence of this time of year for me: This is autumn’s great Departure Gate. Patiently waiting in line with our boarding passes – does anyone know where we are going? Regardless, the important thing is to take in this glorious, colour-filled season while we have it, so enjoy!

How Joy Works by Jan Richardson

You could not stop it

if you tried—how this blessing

begins to sing

every time it sees

your face, how it turns itself

in wonder

merely at the mention

of your name. It is simply

how joy works, going out to you

when you least expect, running up to meet you

when you had not thought

to ask.

How Joy Works

Such simple words, are they not? But the feelings they evoke are complex. With barely a mention of the word, Richardson allows us to feel, or perhaps I should say, allows me to feel joy in my being.

You could not stop it / if you tried – who would want to stop joy from happening? She calls joy a blessing that begins to sing / every time it sees your face. You know that effervescent feeling that you get sometimes with certain beings or places you love – that is what she is telling us joy feels on seeing our own dear face. Notice she is telling us that it is joy that feels joy! O wonder!

The mention of your name, yes, yours, causes joy to turn in wonder. This is how it works, going out to you / when you least expect. The best kind of happiness – unexpected, unplanned, embodied. It is running up to meet you / when you had not thought / to ask. Rarely do I think to ask for joy and yet, there it is, a gift somewhere in each day, unasked for.

These days it can be difficult to see through the haze of bad news, of this uncertain global time, to find joy. Yet I believe the poet’s message is that joy will find you, will run to meet you if you keep your heart open.

Marvelous how something so intricately interrelated can be captured so precisely in this handful of words. Guess that’s just how joy works. May it find you today.

Neighbors by James Crews

Where I’m from, people still wave
to each other, and if someone doesn’t,
you might say of her, She wouldn’t
wave at you to save her life—

but you try anyway, give her a smile.
This is just one of the many ways
we take care of one another, say: I see you,
I feel you, I know you are real. I wave

to Rick who picks up litter while walking
his black labs, Olive and Basil—
hauling donut boxes, cigarette packs
and countless beer cans out of the brush

beside the road. And I say hello
to Christy, who leaves almond croissants
in our mailbox and mason jars of fresh-
pressed apple cider on our side porch.

I stop to check in on my mother-in-law—
more like a second mother—who buys us
toothpaste when it’s on sale, and calls
if an unfamiliar car is parked at our house.

We are going to have to return to this
way of life, this giving without expectation,
this loving without conditions. We need
to stand eye to eye again, and keep asking—

no matter how busy—How are you,
how’s your wife, how’s your knee?, making
this talk we insist on calling small,
though kindness is what keeps us alive.

Neighbors

As I pass my neighbors in the street on the way to the post office or to get some groceries, I marvel how it is that we want to acknowledge one another – sometimes a conversation, sometimes hello and a wave, sometimes just a smiling nod. As Crews says, This is just one of the many ways / we take care of one another. So necessary, this simple way of taking care, of saying ‘I know you are real’.

We all have or know of a Rick, a Christy, our mothers-in-law (yes, especially those much maligned beings) with their small and large kindnesses. This is the way of life we must return to, this giving without expectation, this loving without conditions. So simple and so important, this human interconnectedness.

We must keep asking the how-are-yous, making / this talk we insist on calling small – just love that, the talk we call small which may just be the most meaningful part of someone’s day. Because kindness is what keeps us alive no matter how insignificant it may appear on the surface.

Can’t help but be drawn to the poems that encourage kindness, those simple forms of human communication that are sometimes forgotten. So say hello to your neighbors and be glad for the small talk they offer you.

By the way, how’s your knee?