Tunes for a Monday Morning
Dark Beauty

The lessons of autumn

Oak 1

Oak leaves

From The Solace of Open Spaces by Gretel Ehrlich:

"All through autumn we hear a double voice: one says everything is ripe; the other says everything is dying. The paradox is exquisite. We feel what the Japanese call 'aware' -- an almost untranslatable word meaning something like 'beauty tinged with sadness.' "

Oak 2

"Autumn teaches us that fruition is also death; that ripeness is a form of decay. The willows, having stood for so long near water, begin to rust. Leaves are verbs that conjugate the seasons."

Oak 3

Oak 4

"The truest art I would strive for in any work would be to give the page the same qualities as earth: weather would land on it harshly, light would elucidate the most difficult truths; wind would sweep away obtuse padding. Finally, the lessons of impermanence taught me this: loss constitutes an odd kind of fullness; despair empties out into an unquenchable appetite for life."

Oak 5

Oak 5The poem in the picture captions is Gary Snyder's paean for the American continent (called "Turtle Island" by some indiginous tribes). The poem is sent out from this English hillside, with love, to all who live in the troubled land of my birth. It comes from Snyder's Pulitzer-Prize-winning collection Turtle Island (New Directions, 1974). The text above is from Gretel Ehrlich's fine book The Solace of Open Space (Viking, 1985). All rights to the text and poetry in this post are reserved by the authors.



Sweet halitosis of the season:
rotting leaves,
wet earth,
the damp-flesh smell
of fungus.

The corpse of the year
lies around us,
its juices
seeping back to earth.

in this sweet stench
are deaths and beginnings.
From this wet rot
the spark is struck.

Conjugating the Season

"Leaves are verbs that conjugate
the seasons,"--Gretel Ehrlich

The was of fall,the after,
when leaves in their battalions
march onto the killing ground,
covering it with their past tense,
brings me to tears.

All that bright beauty lost
here in the Arlington of the year.
No resurrections for them
but karmic renewal come spring.
The rest, alas, is but mulch.

©2016 Jane Yolen al rights reserved

We both got a bit elegiac and into death tones here. Though fall is really my favorite season of the year.

Lovely poem, Stuart.


You're right, Jane. Difficult to avoid elegies at this time of year. Still, when beautiful poems like this are made we can forgive ourselves. Autumn is my favourite time too; not only the physical beauty, but the lovely quiet spookiness, the sense of the invisible hand just hovering above the shoulder waiting to be gently placed...

Stuart & Jane: You two *are* elegiac this morning! And creating an earthy, melancholy beauty from it.

Here's another wonderfully earthy, autumnal poem I came across today:
"Blaen Cwrt" by Gillian Clarke:

I awake this morning to find this gift in my email, and like a light in the darkness--it helps illuminate my path as I begin to give up my work in the hospital as a celtic harper since Autumn is reminding my aging body (but not the soul), that everything has it's season and I look forward to moving on. Autumn has always been my favorite season--I know it better now, thanks to you.

Love the poem, Terri. Love the idea of everything 'ochre' and earthy. Despite my urban upbringing I think I'm just a 'son of the sod'. Clare says I'm just a sod.

the swirl of fall

"All through autumn we hear a double voice: one says everything is ripe; the other says everything is dying. The paradox is exquisite." -- Gretel Ehrlich

orange leaves, red crabapples
rust & ruin
harvest & plenty
fall alike to the cold ground
forgotten, abandoned
to crumble to nothing,

or perhaps to sit
to feed birds
& squirrels,
to sink into the earth,
fecund, ripe,
crumbled leaves to nourish the seeds
perhaps next spring
a new tree will grow

(i love this place, every once in a while i accidentally poem)

Hi Terri

I adore this essay and the lessons of Autumn. It is my favorite but the second phase is what draws my heart and spirit. It is that sense of melancholy and departure. The beauty of brightness flares with its inevitable fate of fading like a candle flame. And that Japanese point of view -

'aware' -- an almost untranslatable word meaning something like 'beauty tinged with sadness.' " really resonated with me. I saw a beautiful Japanese documentary called " The Birth of Sake" which featured the old way of making the drink from harvesting to processing it. It is a seasonal trade where the workers leave their families for six months and head far up north to the brewing house to live and work, taking great pride in their craft but severely missing their families. They leave in mid-Autumn at the height of the flaming maples and the harvesting of gardens and fields. The beauty of the season is framed with the pathos of leaving. It is human mirroring of the season's transition from a warm and burnished unity of leaves to the lonely and desolate woods in their skeletal form. Anyway, I wrote this poem keeping all of the above in mind. It sort of corresponds with this poignant mood of Autumn.

The Departure

Every October, a handful of men bid farewell to their family and friends and travel north... where they will spend a cold and lonely six months making sake at the Tedorigawa Brewery.
Justin Chang

He will hear them soon enough. Shore birds
shadowing the wave, their wings a blend
of blanched gray and brown - like the wild grain rice
he ate for breakfast. A light meal to travel.
At the brewing house, he will hunger with them
but for something more than fish or seaweed --
the presence of Kaiori.

This year, Autumn turns slowly
on the branch; and the iron bridge provides
ample rust until some maples redden. Yet
the willow begins to shed. Early mist dampens
its yellow leaves;
and he remembers his wife
on their warm bed showing him her hands. They were moist
from tears. Falling about the same time
her hair untangled from sleep. The strands long
and numerous as the days he would be gone.
thank you for these beautiful words & pictures. They are enlightening and breathtaking!

Take care

Hi Stuart

An absolutely beautiful poem capturing the life/death, light/shadow cycle of Autumn. I love the idea of approaching the gist of this poem as "breath", what it both smells and tastes like, what it contains and how it allows us to rise fro the rot, the ash. Indeed the season allows "the spark" to be stuck. Both creatively and reflectively.

Very well done!

Hi Jane
The was of fall,the after,
when leaves in their battalions
march onto the killing ground,
covering it with their past tense,
brings me to tears.

All that bright beauty lost
here in the Arlington of the year.
No resurrections for them
but karmic renewal come spring.

What an amazingly beautiful but poignant poem. I love how you address the loss of the flaming beauty as "The Arlington of the year" with no resurrections but that karmic renewal come Spring". I can see those lost leaves
as souls , each with a story, to be turned to mulch or ash. It is about loss and still renewal. Just beautifully sung in this poem. Thank you so much for sharing it!

Take care

Hi Kate

A gorgeous poem to read and contemplate. What I love about this poem is its questioning possibility -- if the season's riches will along with its ruin crumble into bits and dust -- or if it will be somehow renewed, almost reincarnated into new life, a tree in Spring. The wording in this and the sequence of thought perfectly convey this
contemplative theme and its parallels. Thank you so much for sharing this.

Much enjoyed!



Kate: It may be accidental, but you sure polished that fallen apple! I am sure a tree will grow.


OK--I don't know how you paint such perfect word pictures every time, but you did it again. And the wife, and her long hair, hands moist with tears. . .perfect.


And blessings to you, Duncan, for the work you've done as a hospital harper. I've spent way too much time in hospital environments over the course of my life, and know well what a gift live music is in such places. It's powerfully healing, in all senses of the word.

I hope the next season of your life is good and fruitful, and that the changes are welcome ones.


I want the book, Wendy. I want the book!!!

Kate: Your autumnal imagery works as a metaphor for the creative process: the ideas and sketches and rough drafts don't don't quite work out. Sometimes we abandon them for good; sometimes they are seed or mulched ground out of which a new artwork grows.

And the book must include your gorgeous introductions to the poems, as well as the poems themselves.

Pre-Raphaelite this time Wendy. All this rich, earthy pigments! Beautiful.

Thank you, Wendy. Praise of the praiseworthy is always the best.

Hi Jane

Thank you so much for this beautiful commentary on my poem!
I do deeply appreciate it; I am glad to hear the images come across vividly. The documentary was beautiful and very inspiring!

Again thank you!!

TAke care
My Best always

Hi Terri

Thanks so much for always reading my poems and for your encouragement!. I deeply appreciate it! Yes, The book is a project very near in the working; and I would agree, some of the prelude essays or intros should be included.

Take care
My Best always

Hi Stuart

I am very drawn to the Pre-Raphaelites, especially Rossetti and Morris. Thank you so much for this lovely commentary. I deeply appreciate it!

My Best

Hello and love to all. These pictures, Terri. That first tree. Breathtaking!

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