It happens each and every year
as August fades away like smoke
on restless winds and September begins
to slip in place and settle down—
a moment of contemplative disquiet
when I look about and see those first
cottonwoods glowing softly golden,
quiet flames refracting the pellucid light.
A startling flash of yellow
among the usual green of wooded
edge, an incandescent framing
to meadows where whitetails
feed in brittle watchfulness
as twilight wanes and katydids
proclaim their measured refrain.
So soon? I always think, transfixed by
both beauty and its implications.
But in truth this annual path is
long familiar, the cottonwoods
simply doing what should now
be expected. Why become taken
aback by a few precocious trees?
Perhaps because of what we share.
Successive autumns annually arriving
to claim their due, one bright-colored
leaf after another. Man and leaf both
have their season, eternally ordained
by heaven and earth. Fellow travelers
on a set path along time's journey—
each bound toward their certain end.
A fact which becomes clearer every year,
when I witness those turning cottonwoods.
Until I also remember what I learned
so long ago…that nothing could be better,
for either of us, than to culminate our
earthly portion swaddled in a golden glow.