I am drunk with the slow sweet force of these late-summer days. Two nights ago, a bat swooped low over the yard and traced a circlet around my head, kissing-close, as the Milky Way poured itself out across the sky. These last days of the season are generous, extravagant in their gifts as an ancient king pressing mead and golden arm-rings upon his retainers.
I’ve always loved autumn best, but this year, the heady warmth of these final summer sunsets has seized me and I cannot escape the wonder of them. The grapes hang ripe on the vines, and when I pluck the raspberries from their drooping stems, the plants spring back, relieved of their August weight.
The last few days have been stifling, and the leaves of the pumpkins fold closed like umbrellas. In the garden, bare earth dries and cracks. But the taste of autumn is in the air, and the wash of blue in the sky promises October. Sometimes at night the dew falls cold, and suddenly frost and falling leaves seem possible again.
But I don’t want to let go of these last slow oozings–not yet. Summer stretched so long when I was a child, and it’s only been within the past year that I’ve begun to realize why grownups were always saying that time flies. It doesn’t, really, but we fly through it. You died in the dark depths of winter, far from summer’s golden shore. I wonder what your last summer was like. Did it fly, John Keats? Did it wing across your faltering vision like a nightingale, trailing beauty sharpened by sorrow? You were a summer’s day, a brief burst of light, a meteor streaking across the sky. You were truth and beauty and all the hoarded gold of summer, brimming in blossoms and cells, bursting forth in the cider press or on the page–like a good cider, made sublime by just the right mixture of sweet and bitter. Like the bees’ treasure-hoard, made sweeter with the knowledge that honey, the eternal nectar, is the product of golden wings whose lives are shorter and more tragic than that of any Danish prince or British poet.
There is always a darkness that makes the light clearer, midday shadows black beneath the trees. Like your life, your words, thrown into sharper clarity by the knowledge that your summer could not last.
Harvest time draws near. The days grow shorter, and soon the last of summer’s gifts will be gathered into sparkling jars in the storeroom, or crystallized with ice in the freezer. After this long, slow season of germination and growth and ripening, I send my children off to school again and now, finally, now, it is time to sit down and write. It is time to gather the harvest of thoughts that have been growing in my imagination.
Why is it that beginnings are always endings, too?
Soon, the goblin-market will fall silent. Its cries are fading even now, and in my ear, Mr. Baggins whispers that the road goes ever on and on.
I have loved these last slow sweet days, with their heavy heat and intoxicating fragrances. But it’s almost time to gather my ripening words and step out upon the path, not knowing where it will sweep me.
It’s almost time.
So here’s to summer’s last hurrah, and here’s to autumn,