What's Tony Thinking

Autumn Hints


Here in the Northwest, and in Eastern Oregon, we’re in for a warm stretch this weekend, but overall I’m beginning to feel the hints of seasonal change in the air. The nights are getting cool. Most of all it’s the slant of sun, the changes in the light. Here at the cabin the fat little ground squirrels have already disappeared for another year.

What I’m wondering is how this particular autumn will go, given the pandemic? We are deeply primed for all sorts of changes and shifts, come autumn, just as animals and nature are. Will we be like runners approaching some starting line, only to find there is no line and no race this year?

A lot of it revolves around the fall re-opening of school, which is happening some places if by fits and starts. Mostly school reopening isn’t happening here in Washington and Oregon. At least not in person and in school-buildings. Back to on-line for kids and parents. Pretty challenging.

But it’s not just school. Ordinarily, all kinds of activities resume — meetings start up again, programs and classes have registrations, sports get under way. The tempo shifts.

But this year? The weather will shift. Birds will fly south. Squirrels will hide nuts. Salmon will spawn. As for the rest of us . . . who knows. How will our bodies respond to an autumn that is and isn’t that to which we’re accustomed? And our spirits, so entwined with those bodies? Will we return, as other autumns, but find ourselves halting and unsure about what it is to which we have returned? (This autumn painting is one I did last fall.)

The political campaign and election too will be different. No door-to-door canvassing. Most of it will be on-line, on tv, on social media. Just hope voting will happen, and that Trump’s efforts to deter it will not hold sway.

In the meantime, here’s a nice autumn poem, from W. B. Yeats, “The Wild Swans of Coole.”

“The trees are in their autumn beauty,
The woodland paths are dry,
Under the October twilight the water
Mirrors a still sky;
Upon the brimming water among the stones
Are nine-and-fifty swans.
The nineteenth autumn has come upon me
Since I first made my count;
I saw, before I had well finished,
All suddenly mount
And scatter wheeling in great broken rings
Upon their clamorous wings…
But now they drift on the still water,
Mysterious, beautiful;
Among what rushes will they build,
By what lake’s edge or pool
Delight men’s eyes when I awake some day
To find they have flown away?”

It seemed that with the pandemic many of us were more grateful than usual for spring’s beauty. Maybe the same will prove true of this autumn? Hang in there, my friends.

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