It is a day of golds here along the river—golden sunshine, golden leaves everywhere I look, golden reflections in the water as it eases slowly along. I feel as rich as King Midas sitting in the midst of of his treasure room.
By rights, I should be working. Lord knows, I have plenty to do. Yet as the day rolled on, passing noon, I became increasingly weary—not of body, but of spirit. There have been a lot of things to accomplish and deal with over these past couple of weeks. So I came outside more than an hour ago to sit in the rocker and eat a late lunch on the deck, to rest, to find some perspective. In case you're wondering, my meal consisted of a bowl of Dutch oven chili I made a couple of days ago. Chili, like true love, is one of those things that only gets better with time. Dessert was a tart and juicy northern spy apple from an orchard up the road. After eating, I sipped on a cup of coffee and read a lovely piece from a new book, In the Sweet Country, by the late Harry Middleton.
Harry Middleton was only fifty-three years old when he died from a massive coronary in the summer of 1993. I knew him peripherally, through mutual friends. Though he'd worked as an editor and columnist for such publications as Southern Living, and produced a fair number of articles for various magazines, Harry wrote only a few books—the first being The Earth is Enough, published in 1989. His second book, On the Spine of Time, came out in 1991. Three others followed. And then he was gone…
The tragedy—beyond that, of course, of anyone dying at such an early age—is the loss of a genuine talent. Measured against any standards, Harry Middleton was one of the finest writers around. His voice was unique, his literary skills exceptional. His first two books can rightly be called masterpieces—sufficient to insure his name will never be forgotten by those who love mountain streams and wild lands, along with the creatures and folks who find comfort in such places. This latest work, a collection of some of Harry's magazine pieces, is really a way for us—his devoted readers—to enjoy one more helping of his wonderful tales.
As I do with many good things, I try to savor such experiences by taking it slow, reading only one or two pieces from the book per sitting. After finishing the story—of a float trip Harry took with his grandfather down an Arkansas river—I laid the book aside. Moon the dog was stretched out nearby, snoozing. It's possible I dozed a moment or two myself.
And then a little gust of warm wind blew across my cheek. I looked up and watched hundreds of bright walnut leaves loosen from the tall trees along the drive, to come pouring down like water from a pitcher. I got up, crossed the yard, and began picking up a few gold leaves. Why? I have have no idea…but I carried them back to the deck and examined them one-by-one. Why is beauty always so transient?
Afterwards, I stuck a few in the pages of Harry's book. In time, they'll lose their color. Gold always fades. They might even stain the pages of the book. But they'll also mark this day, this moment, and perhaps a few golden reveries, in a way no other bookmark could.