On a rotating basis, in a column titled Voices of Faith, leaders of faith communities in Concord contribute articles to the town's weekly, The Concord Journal. It was my turn this week...
In Hardwood Groves
The same leaves over and over again!
They fall from giving shade above
To make one texture of faded brown
And fit the earth like a leather glove.
Before the leaves can mount again
To fill the trees with another shade,
They must go down past things coming up.
They must go down into the dark decayed.
They must be pierced by flowers and put
Beneath the feet of dancing flowers.
However it is in some other world
I know that this is the way in ours.
Of all Frost’s poems, this is one of my favorites. It’s difficult for me to imagine a greater grasp of the fall than what’s found in these simple words. Of course, Frost captures more than the soul of autumn, he captures our hearts, our souls, too. For this is the way in this world of ours, in October and in any time, when the rhythm of falling and mounting again, the passage of dying and rising, moves around and within us.
Is it my imagination or have the leaves been slow to fall this year? And the colors - where are the colors? I want more color on the street where I live and more color along the roads I drive! How far west on Route 2 need I travel to enjoy a palette finer than faded browns and muted, dappled yellows? I need more color to help me through the shorter days, the longer nights and the chill that’s finally trumping last week’s treat of shirtsleeves warmth. The colors coax us to accept the going down in dark decayed and hint, they even promise what’s coming up but cannot yet be seen or smelled, loved or touched.
The dying and the rising must be: however it is in some other world, I know, with Frost, that this is the way in ours.
Saturday’s afternoon was a chilled and rainy day in Harvard where I attended a memorial service for Jeremiah, a young man, a gentle, wise, loving leaf of a poet who fell much too soon from the shade his life offered to family, friends and his beloved.. So many loving hearts, assembling to remember, coming together to lift up precious memories as if they might, with grief’s reach, reattach this precious green leaf to the branch where he belonged.
But before the leaves can mount again, more than a season must pass…
Jeremiah has not taken leave of hearts that knew and now treasure him all the more in loss. Perhaps, already, he rests even more deeply in the souls of those he’s left behind. He is gone but he is not gone. He is not here but he is here. He has fallen from his place and yet even memories of him give shade to hearts muted in October’s faded browns…
We all need the colors that help us make a way through this season and all the seasons of our hearts. We need the colors to help us through the shorter days, the longer nights and the chill that trumps the warmth of memories and huddles us together, waiting through winter for the spring. We must be pierced by flowers and put beneath the feet of dancing flowers. However it is in some other world, I now that this is the way in ours.
To Frost’s verse and in memory of a young poet, let me add my own words:
I offer you thanks, Lord,
for your divine imagination,
your playful wisdom shaping
earth, its seasons and their beauty...
Who first knew your plan
for shorter days and autumn chill
to sap the summer's chlorophyll
from leafy, shady boughs?
A gift of longer nights,
these hidden hues now bared
expose on every branch your hand
waving blessings on October's breeze...
I see revealed in summer's loss,
in each tree's seasoned death,
a glory of gold and russets
rustling purple patches, crimson crowned
and fall's late light filtered
through leaves glowing from within:
all so simple, as if your hand,
divine, had not designed it all...
When my hope's summered green
fades, Lord, paint my soul in
autumn hues, illumn'd with light
whose only source is you...
I offer you my thanks
for every leaf that sighs and falls
and pads the path I walk
and wander in your grace...
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