An autumn day, after hard frost, and an early northeaster. An autumn day of Indian summer equal to that other stunner, that miracle, a languorous June afternoon when all is still. And painful. “The present usually hurts” — Blaise Pascal (“Pensées” No. 47).
Both have freshened lawns, new blues of onion and garlic chives. Houseplants are going out or coming in, turned round entire to be clipped, divided, fed, pots washed and saucers, too. But brown skins falling from tulip bulbs is unique to autumn, as is blue monkshood but not blue autumn crocus, which has its replica in spring. Cold nights echo both seasons. Bucks grind the felt off their antlers on sturdy yew trunks instead of chewing branches. There are late roses like early ones, although they are pinker, redder, and whiter in the later season. There are intimations of things fat and lazy and complete (“Complacencies of the peignoir”).
But all comparisons cease with the gingkoes. In a day, gold. On another, a fall of gold like the old fairy tale of a princess in a tower with a waterfall of golden hair, like a stairway painted gold or the very air turned mineral. In spring there is manuring. In autumn, fallen foliage does the same.
The sun grows weaker, its rays more and more slant. “Tell all the truth but tell it slant.” (Miss Dickinson, I believe.) And who was it said something about literature being a mirror dawdling down the road?
We are finishing the last of the painting at Madoo. Three pale violet chimneys look fine against mocha windows and doors, and what greens we have done are to be called Madoo Green by our supplier, Stark Paints.
Both spring and autumn are times of great turmoil and change and the other two seasons are rather fixed and predictable. Winter days are winter days, clear, clean, and hard with sound cut off. Summer “. . . is a long road lined with roses and thunder,” wrote James Schuyler.
It is hard not to be sad, spring and autumn, when nothing quite lasts and everything is thus unreliable. It is the way of renewal and dwindling, heat going on, heat going off. I move houses then. And studios, too. It seems to be the same sort of thing, putting out watering cans and metal vases or storing them once more.
We always yearn for what is not here. Someone in “The Cherry Orchard,” is it? “I am in mourning for my life!” And it is a question as well as a wail.
Dawn, dusk, midnight, noon, tides partial and entire, the perpetual earth, warming and cooling. Whether you hear it or not, it is the tree that wins and its fall matters so.