The natural beauty of Virginia was intoxicating to me.
The Blue Ridge Mountains invaded the sky outside of town, magnolias bloomed, birds sang;
in fact the romantic stories about the South are not imagination.
There is a special softness to the air, like realized nostalgia.
- Gladys Taber, from Harvest of Yesterdays (1976)
How difficult it can be to distinguish good from bad. Fortune from misfortune. The right path from the wrong. So often, to our surprise and consternation, we find these opposites to be entwined. Inseparable.
There’s a parable that surfaces in various forms in various cultures that speaks to this. The version that comes most readily to my mind (because, in our rare free moments, when we’re too tired for anything but TV, we Netflix Northern Exposure, which is quite possibly the most wonderful show ever made) is this one, from the NX episode “Bolt from the Blue,” as related by character Marilyn Whirlwind:
My uncle once told me about a warrior who had a fine stallion. Everybody said how lucky he was to have such a horse.
”Maybe” he said.
One day the stallion ran off. The people said the warrior was unlucky.
”Maybe” he said.
The next day the stallion returned, leading a string of fine ponies. The people said it was very lucky.
”Maybe” the warrior said.
Later, the warrior’s son was thrown from one of the ponies and broke his leg. The people said it was unlucky.
”Maybe” the warrior said.
The next week, the chief lead a war party against another tribe. Many young men were killed. But, because of his broken leg, the warrior’s son was left behind, and so was spared.
* * *
When faced with events that teach us that good and bad are two sides of the same coin, learning to accept their duality but to focus on the good almost always makes for a happier life, I do believe.
The flowers of late winter and early spring
occupy places in our hearts
well out of proportion to their size.
- Gertrude S. Wister (1905-1999)
Here we are once more: the full moon! In North America, the most common name for November’s moon is the Beaver Moon, in part because, for fur-trappers, November is an excellent time to lay traps for that animal, and in part because beavers are busy building winter dams this month. (For those of you wondering: we’ve not seen our backyard beaver since our last encounter — the tree remains downed, and sadly unused.)
The last few days have reminded us why we call the fall The Fall: from above, a steady downward flutter of leaves, drifting, blanketing the lawn. The locals agree: the autumn colors have been unusually beautiful this year — and autumn itself has been wondrously long. Many bright, warm days. Perfect for walking, and soaking up the sun’s rays.
As Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote: I cannot endure to waste anything as precious as autumn sunshine by staying in the house. So I spend almost all the daylight hours in the open air. Well, in my case, perhaps not all the daylight hours. But at least an hour a day, Matt, the baby, and I are out in the autumn glow!
The weeks are flying by. One month until the first day of winter, the winter solstice — which also happens to be December’s full moon. A fun coincidence! And just over a month until this baby arrives. He or she is growing well — healthy and strong! Big kicks this month, and lots of hiccups. Above: a quick photo snapped late this afternoon (staring into the sun — explains the squint!). The belly is big, and I love it! All is well.
Happy autumn to you all!
Recently, Matt went on a Faulkner marathon at bedtimes, reading sections aloud when the mood struck. Last weekend, we spotted this late-season rose — undaunted, determined, the last on the bush — and recalled this passage:
There was a rose, a single remaining rose. Through the sad, dead days of late summer it had continued to bloom, and now though persimmons had long swung their miniature suns among the caterpillar-festooned branches, and gum and maple and hickory had flaunted two gold-and-scarlet weeks, and the grass, where grandfathers of grasshoppers squatted sluggishly like sullen octogenarians, had been pencilled twice delicately with frost, and the sunny noons were scented with sassafras, it still bloomed. Overripe now, and a little gallantly blowsy, like a fading burlesque star.
- William Faulkner, from Flags in the Dust (1929)
The heart of autumn must have broken here,
and poured its treasure out upon the leaves.
- Charlotte Fiske Bates (1838 – 1916)
Do more than belong: participate.
Do more than care: help.
Do more than believe: practice.
Do more than be fair: be kind.
Do more than forgive: forget.
Do more than dream: work.
- William Arthur Ward (1921–1994)
If we had ample means and could choose any kind of life we wished, we would choose what we have chosen. And when I say we, I mean we. There are many differences between a man’s viewpoint and a woman’s, even though they may live side by side in the same house year in and year out. But there must be a profound unshaken unity underneath the difference if they are to make a success of such a life as we have lived, because the things that must be passed by are things that one or the other might consider indispensable. As for children, I cannot help but think that they gain far more than they lose, in happiness and experience. By and large, it is the best life for children. And later, they must make their own choice.
- Gove Hambidge, from Enchanted Acre: Adventures in Backyard Farming (1935)