Autumn light

Another 90 degree day awaits, but cooler days are coming. Autumn can be a solemn season for some, with the fall of every Freddie the Leaf. But we don’t really begin to feel it here ’til around Halloween.

My Peanuts page-a-day has been playing with the solemnity of Fall. Linus and Charlie Brown gleaned this lesson: “Don’t be a leaf. Be a tree.” There are figurative ways to do that, but even the oldest trees must eventually fall. Maybe better to be a root, better still to be the soil.

But this is a birthday for Peanuts (originally “L’l Folks”), in 1950. Charles Schulz said “winning is great, but it isn’t funny.” Detractors say Peanuts isn’t that funny either, but I think it’s often profoundly wise and humane and compassionate. Better than funny.

Also, today’s Wallace Stevens’ birthday. He walked two miles to work at the Insurance Company every day, composing great poems in transit. For him, poetry was god and the whole human race was a poem.

Speaking of god: what a terrific job our reporters in section 13 did yesterday, with their version of “This I Believe.” John gave us his version of Paley’s watch analogy (which still doesn’t impress) and his conviction that some huge intelligence must exist to have created a “ball” big enough to bang out a universe, and to insure ultimate justice (“accountability”). Then in turn we heard Savannah’s agnosticism, Carolyn’s atheism, and McKayla’s scientism. There followed a brief but equally thoughtful class discussion. One of those days that make me grateful for my profession.

And since I cadge from them so much, I should also profess my gratitude for the Almanac. Yesterday they ran a Mark Strand poem I wish I’d written.

For Jessica, My Daughter

Tonight I walked,
lost in my own meditation,
and was afraid,
not of the labyrinth
that I have made of love and self
but of the dark and faraway.
I walked, hearing the wind in the trees,
feeling the cold against my skin,
but what I dwelled on
were the stars blazing
in the immense arc of sky.

Jessica, it is so much easier
to think of our lives,
as we move under the brief luster of leaves,
loving what we have,
than to think of how it is
such small beings as we
travel in the dark
with no visible way
or end in sight.

Yet there were times I remember
under the same sky
when the body’s bones became light
and the wound of the skull
opened to receive
the cold rays of the cosmos,
and were, for an instant,
themselves the cosmos,
there were times when I could believe
we were the children of stars
and our words were made of the same
dust that flames in space,
times when I could feel in the lightness of breath
the weight of a whole day
come to rest.

But tonight
it is different.
Afraid of the dark
in which we drift or vanish altogether,
I imagine a light
that would not let us stray too far apart,
a secret moon or mirror,
a sheet of paper,
something you could carry
in the dark
when I am away.

“For Jessica, My Daughter” by Mark Strand, from Collected Poems. © Knopf, 2014. Reprinted with permission. 

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