Tuesday, October 12, 2010

GOLDEN REVERIES


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. 
——————— 


20 comments:

George said...

A lovely posting, Grizz. As I finished the piece, a Robert Frost poem came to mind.

"Nature's first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf's a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day,
Nothing gold can stay."

As with nature, so with life, which, of course, is part of nature. Nothing gold can stay, but oh how lucky we are to witness its transient glory.

Bernie said...

I love this post, such a beautiful tribute to an author you so admire. Your relationship with nature, animals, family and friends shows through your post aond it is wonderful to read about. You are a good and kind man.........:-) Hugs

Grizz………… said...

George…

I know, and have always liked, that Frost poem—and I'm glad to read it again. One of the great lessons, I believe, is to learn to live in the moment—to recognize and appreciate those often ephemeral times for their richness and value, to open yourself fully to their healing and delight.

That handful of bight gold walnut leaves has already turned dark, the color and joy they flashed so briefly is gone—and yet because I saw and held them in their gleaming glory, I can see them as they were, not as they are; I can know their peak, their proclamation. And I can compare the then and now and learn something applicable to my own passage.

Grizz………… said...

Bernie…

Thank you sincerely for those lovely words I do hope with all my heart they are true, and will always be true. To be judged a "good and kind man" is a wonderful legacy.

Penny said...

This is a lovely post, I wonder if I can run to earth any of his books, they are noted down.
I looked and looked at that last photo seeing a piece of textile in it, I hope you dont mind I have copied it and am going to have a go sometime, lovely colours and some dyed silk and hand stitching might do it. If I am clever enough!

Grizz………… said...

Penny…

If you do decide to try and find one of Harry's books, I'd suggest "The Earth is Enough." Ostensibly a novel, it's purely autobiographical in setting, characters, and the great themes, which continued throughput the rest of his writing, of wild, rugged country, trout, books, and the old men and oddball characters who open this world to a boy badly in need of something true and substantial.

If that shot of yesterday's leaves reflecting in the water of the pool just below the cottage is of any inspiration whatsoever—have at it with my blessings!

Jayne said...

So moving and beautifully written. Started my day with a smile you did. :c)

Grizz………… said...

Jayne…

Then it's a day well started. And your nice comments make my morning better, too. Thank you.

Scott said...

Hey, Grizz, one of your best posts ever. I feel like I was there with you on your deck. And, I love your composition with the book; it makes me want to sit for an hour out on my own patio and stare into my woods (except that the mosquitoes are still ferocious here). I wish that I could be as calm, collected, and reflective as you seem to be, but in reality I'm a pretty "hyper" guy who could profitably use a dose of your Zen.

Bonnie said...

that we could all share our golden moments so beautifully ...

i've always wondered where talent and wisdom go ...

Gail said...

HI GRIZZ_

I love this golden post - and your heart strings pulled and soothed too by Harry Middleton's words and by golden images around you and deepening flavored chile on your porch while setting in that ole rocker that, by design, is made for thought. :-)
Your world is magical and so life-giving as seen through your eyes and heart. I love sitting with you - quietly and seeing and feeling what you see and feel. "thanks"
Loving you this crisp golden day
Gail
peace my friend, peace.....

Carolyn H said...

Griz: you have more color, more gold than I do here at Roundtop at the moment. And thanks for reminding me again about Harry Middleton.

Carolyn H.

Grizz………… said...

Scott…

Believe it or not, I have a pretty restless nature—though paradoxically, I can indeed sit quietly for hours, watching, thinking.

No mosquito issues here; and oddly, no yellow jackets, either. Both of which can seriously interfere with a contemplative autumn porch-sit.

Thank you re. book/leaves shot. I wanted it to look just the way it was—a handful of walnut leaves tossed casually onto the book and table. I liked the way it came out.

Grizz………… said...

Bonnie…

I think the answer is simple…talent and wisdom are both gifts, meant to be shared, passed along to those who have need and can recognize and appreciate their value. In that way they can be used and built upon.

One of the great tragedies—some would say sins—is to be trusted with such gifts and fail to share them fully and effectively. The greater the gift, the greater the responsibility. And when they're lost, I don't think we ever see them again.

Imagine the vast wisdom of the ancients. What did they know that we can never learn?

Years ago, I worked in a music store. Both my parents were musical, and at the time I was playing cornet, guitar and piano—and was pretty good on the latter two, enough that I was sort of semi-professional. But I was regularly blown away by the talent walking in the door of that shop—folks who could play whatever like you can't imagine. The sort of talent other musicians envy and are simply awed by. Remarkable, world-class, prodigiously-gifted musicians. And the shame of it was they did nothing with their gift; played only for themselves.

At first you might feel, well, it's theirs to use as they wish. But eventually you came to believe they were being selfish, wasting something rare and precious. Most of the really great talents I've met or know much about feel this way; many, in fact, look at their talent, their gift, as something almost outside themselves, with them being merely a caretaker whose task it is to see that the gift is nurtured and used, given its place.

Ultimately, I believe life is meant to be lived interactively. Donne was right.

Anyway, for what it's worth, that's my take…

Grizz………… said...

Gail…

I wish you could sit on the deck with me on such a day—when the sun is warm, the breeze scented with that old wine fragrance of autumn, and golden light pours through the sycamores leaning along the river. It is a place of peace and healing, where mind and spirit can rest, heal, find solace in the slanting brightness and the soft rattle of falling leaves.

Words are a poor substitute, I know, but I give you what I can.

Take care, be well, embrace joy.

Grizz………… said...

Carolyn…

It is another golden day here—more gold than yesterday, even.

Alas, my daydreams and reveries have to be put on hold—as the desk work I dodged yesterday must be gotten out today.

Glad to remind you of Middleton…

The Weaver of Grass said...

That river picture looks like liquid gold Grizz.
Sadly we have no choice about when we die - I know some wonderfully creative people who have died far too young - but they live on in their creations I am sure.

Grizz………… said...

Weaver…

That "liquid gold" is the way the river looks right now, both up and downstream. Truly lovely.

And no, we have no foreknowledge of our natural death date…which seems to me to make it imperative that we use every day fully and wisely. Which isn't to say some can't be spent daydreaming beside a golden river…

Tramp said...

Concerning what you said in reply to Bonnie's comment I thnk we can extend this to the gifts we have that we don't usually consider to be talents. What about eyesight, hearing etc., etc. Even if we feel that we aren't particularly talented in comparison to other people, there is no reason why we shouldn't do what we can to use and develop these blessings to the good. Not to do so, to waste these gifts and ponder on what we don't have is the selfishness you speak of. It can take the loss, even temporary, of one of these gifts to bring this message home to us.
Singing, drawing, story telling and other such activities with my grandson may not have much in common with talent but they involve and explore the gifts we have.
Excuse the rambling but I had the 2nd cataract operation this morning and these sort of thoughts were going through my head.
...Tramp

Grizz………… said...

Tramp…

I couldn't agree more! We all have gifts and talents, artistic or otherwise, and none should be taken for granted or wasted.

You a quite wrong, however, when you say, "Singing, drawing, story telling and other such activities with my grandson may not have much in common with talent…" Giving of your time, your attention—your heart and love—is a genuine talent. Don't think for a moment he won't remember such a sharing of your gifts. Nothing we can ever give beats the giving of ourselves.

Years ago, following the funeral service for one of my widowed uncles, everyone gathered at the nearby home of his sister for a meal and visit before heading our various ways. When we arrived, the table was laid out and dish after dish sat waiting—a real feast. It smelled wonderful, and tasted even better. In fact, I'd count it one of the three or four best meals I've eaten in my life. "Where did all this come from? " I asked my aunt. "Oh, a few ladies around the neighborhood," she said, then added: "Don't know any of them…but this is what they do—cook and bake."

When I'd finished a second slice of cranberry-raisin pie, I made it a point to go find whoever was responsible for the banquet. The four women were back in the kitchen. Their story was simple.

"This is what we can do," they said. "Bake, cook, feed folks. People seem to like what we fix. So, when we hear about a family in need, dealing with sickness or death, or maybe just got released from a hospital or nursing home…we take care of seeing they're fed."

I asked what they charged. They almost looked insulted before deciding I was probably just a bit dumb.

"Why, Honey, we don't want money! We get paid by the doin'. It's our gift to the people who can use a good meal. We're privileged to do something. You got to give back all you can, use what God gave you. Elsewise, what kind of person are you?"

I've never forgotten this wonderfully simple philosophy…use what you've got; do what you can.