Sunday, September 16, 2007

Asian Pears, 9/11, and Rilke: Ponderings in September

There’s a poignancy about September, something that makes me begin to slowly turn inward. Perhaps it’s the abrupt desiccation of the air that turns the sky into a slate of cerulean. Or the slipping into routines of packed lunches, morning busyness, and crushing commutes. The evening you notice, for the first time, the absence of fireflies dancing in garden shadows. The lonely chirrup of crickets as dusk falls earlier than the day before. Perhaps it’s the way the Asian pears take on a golden glow, the way raspberries turn redder, smaller, sweeter. Maybe it’s the four jet liners that inalterably redefined summer’s slow, inexorable slide into Fall when they slammed into towers and fields six years ago.
(Asian Pear, Henry Simoni-Wastila)

All I know is that this week, many things gave me pause. My daughter’s short, stubby legs carrying her down a soccer field. The toothless, stooped man selling papers outside the metro station. Spent syringes lying in the gutter. The flock of grackles, a school of hundreds, weaving patterns above the horizon of trees.

Words moved me, too. Phrases, a collection of sentences, would leap from pages, force me to retrace their origins and read again. Sometimes it was the sheer lyricism of the writing that struck me, other times it was the meaning contained within the words...

In That Certain September, Joseph Grant elicits in two sentences the frustrating experience of emergency room workers on September 11, 2001…

People from all walks of life and from seemingly every ethnic background, all working together, were hammering planks together for makeshift stretchers for the injured that would surely flood our doors any given moment now. In one of the cruelest ironies of that dreadful day the stretchers were abandoned, never to be used.

Fading Away, a haunting short by Joseph Bathanti in the latest The Sun, also brought me to tears…

As Fritz holds Claire in the flickering candlelight, she tells him that Compton once threatened to kill her. She laughs when she tells him, insisting that Compton is nothing but swagger, but Fritz has come to recognize her laugh as an acknowledgement of powerlessness, something people of epic endurance share. They know only how to suffer, not how to hit back. Then he hears himself laugh too. It finally occurs to him that he has been training not to fight, but to flee.

I revisited Allen Ginsburg's The Howl, a testament to an era and its losses (thank you, Sarah)...

I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by
madness, starving hysterical naked,
dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn
looking for an angry fix…

And from Robert Graves, noted historian and author of I, Claudius and Claudius the God, in a four-word preface to the fabulous and fabulistThe Cleft by Doris Lessing…

“Man does, woman is.”

(So perfect. So succinct.)

Finally, I spent time meditating on a ceramic vessel I built many years ago. My funerary urn. Carved in the slipped and burnished earthenware, an epitaph extracted from the words of Ranier Maria Rilke…

Explore transformation throughout.
What is your most suffering experience?
Is drinking bitter to you, turn to wine.

And if the earthly forgot you,
To the still earth say: I run.
To the swift water speak: I am.

What made you think and wonder this week? Peace, Linda


  1. Fall is such a frustrating time for me. There is something about the weather that makes me so restless, so dissatisfied. I get this pyschological itch that doesn't quiet until January. One year I will, I will give in and throw all this to the wind and pack up and go.


  2. Linda,

    Summer shrivels up like the leaves curling on the trees. It is no wonder you are pondering life's frailties, faults and wonders.
    Reflection in the face of death. The death of nature.
    Every year at this time I recite Robert Frost's "Nothing Gold Can Stay" poem over and over in my mind. I learned the poem in high school, loved it and am reminded of it each autumn when trees shed their colored fingers, the grasses mat flat, and the gardens and flowers are put to bed.
    You have a lovely site here, I poke my head in on a regular basis to see what new topic has captured your mind. Thank you for the lovely thoughts expressed. They are quite thought provoking. And intelligent. As always.

    take care,

  3. Kelley, when I lived in central Massachusetts, Fall frustrated me, too. The harbinger of biting cold, yet a teasing reminder of the all-too-brief heat of summer. Hang tough...

    Kim, Thank you for pausing here in my little sanctum. Such lush, gorgeous words... Now, off to ponder Frost... Peace, Linda

  4. I looooooooooooooooooooove fall. It's by far my favorite season (and god how I miss the east coast this time of year - like clockwork, I get a little homesick).

    I love the turning leaves, which are sparse here, as everything is evergreens. There are some deciduous trees though, so there's a little, little taste. I love the smell of fall. I love fall foods - apple anything, squash, pumpkins, cider. I love Halloween.

    I'm not a big summer person - if you can even call it summer where I live, lol. All summer I complained about what a cold summer it was (and it really, really was). Sometimes I think I'm downright angry with the Northwest for its cool, too-temperate summers. And on my island, summers mean throngs and throngs of tourists, crowds and more crowds, go, go, go.

    The moment it turns to fall I feel better. The cooler weather is okay because its right for its season, things slow down and start to turn introspective and writerly (for me). And I like winter, too, so I don't mind that it's coming. I like darkness, fog, and all of that.

    But fall is my favorite, by far. Reading your post was like a great way to usher in the season, and really think about how it's approaching, and a good reminder to savor it. I love your excerpts (and want to read this Robert Frost poem as well).

    This morning I finished reading BIll Bryson's A Walk in the Woods, and at the very end he talks about standing on a summit in Vermont in October, and I think it was the first time I really felt, wow, next year at this time, I might not be out here in the Northwest. I might be back East. Cool.

    Anyway my response is now insanely long. I kept wanting to respond to this post, but wanting to have time to reflect, too. I always love your blogs!