Morning Thanks

Garrison Keillor once said we'd all be better off if we all started the day by giving thanks for just one thing. I'll try.

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Morning Thanks--"The Summer Ends"

I am thankful, this morning, for Wendell Berry's poem "End of Summer" because it reminds me I'm not the only one who's depressed. It's five a.m., and ye old cat is howling, which is, after a fashion, my alarm clock as of late. He seems to know when I should be up-and-at-it, darn thing.

And what's so depressingly notable at five these days is that the whole world is inky dark, not a trace of dawn, not a hint, not a ray, no pale suggestion that something is rising anywhere. It's midnight outside, even though it's already five. Once the sun begins its annual arc to the south, it doesn't seem to inch along, it freefalls. Just yesterday, it seems, I'd rise to the morning. Now what's out there is desperately black. 

And very sad.

The Summer Ends

The summer ends, and it is time
To face another way. Our theme
Reversed, we harvest the last row
To store against the cold, undo
The garden that will be undone.
We grieve under the weakened sun
To see all earth's green fountains dried,
And fallen all the works of light.
You do not speak, and I regret
This downfall of the good we sought
As though the fault were mine. I bring
The plow to turn the shattering
Leaves and bent stems into the dark,
From which they may return. At work,
I see you leaving our bright land,
The last cut flowers in your hand.

Wendell Berry speaks for me this morning because, although I hate to admit it, the thrill is off the tomatoes. Big fat beans--what's left of the pickins--hang from scrawny plants like a lynched cluster of cattle thieves. My wife says that any day now I can just clean up the whole patch, a chore I'll have to push myself to do because the joy is long gone.

Somehow we escaped the torrent of heat that can melt man and animal this summer, so some of the relief we ordinarily feel when the weather moves northwest doesn't come with as great a joy as it can; instead, it just feels like fall. The clouds stop looking mid-summer, because it's not. "We grieve under the weakened sun," he says. Yes, we do.

Nice of him to offer hope the way he does with the last handful of the cut flowers. And a zillion poets at least have found some joy in the cycle of things, the the way the plow turns "the shattering/Leaves and bent stems into the dark,/From which they may return." That's nice too. It helps. Not a lot right now, but it helps.

Besides, I know morning midnights won't stay forever. Northwest winds will shake the place, make it shiver and rattle; but eventually they'll give in, once again, to warmth rising bountifully from the south.

Daylight is in freefall right now, every single day's slice of light noticeably thinner, as if the starving season 'twill soon be upon us. Those long January shadows will stretch across the day only because there won't be much day to stretch. It's coming. 

It's not difficult to understand why the Lakota would point a line of rocks at the exact position of the morning sun on solstice. They didn't want to miss the day to remember that, come morning, nothing gold can stay. Darkness was coming.

The voice in the poem is telling us the most precious message of all humankind can tell each other--that we are not alone.  I'm sure this poem didn't make Mr. Wendell Berry a rich man, but what his voice makes clear is priceless.

And now out east, the Creator's canvas takes on some pastels that do more than hint there will soon be a dawn, the gospel of the morning.

Wendell Berry's "End of Summer" is this morning's featured poem on The Writer's Almanac.


Anonymous said...

For those that believe in global warming, we dodged a bullet, hot weather.

For those who do not believe in global warming, we experienced the natural order of things, orchestrated by the Creator, cooler weather.

Anonymous said...

Wow. 8:21AM comment is truly ignorant. One can "believe" in both!

J. C. Schaap said...

This came via an e-mail note, but it really needs to be posted. Greatly comforting:

"There some mathematics behind this. When a quantity (such as the amount of daylight) reaches both a maximum and a minimum, the incremental change from day to day tends toward zero: that’s a principle of calculus (set the derivative to 0 to find the max or min). So long summer days stay long quite a while, and short winter days stay short quite a while. On the other hand, the daylight hours change quickest at the equinoxes, vernal and autumnal. So as we approach Sept 21, the daylight hours do change by leaps and bounds. It not only seems to freefall, it actually does, by mathematical calculation, using principles of introductory calculus."

A somewhat anonymous semi-retired math prof. :)

Anonymous said...

Hey 10:17 poster.

You must be a lefty. First you slam the 10:21 AM poster and then you want it both ways... It is all about the thermometer. There is an objective standard to measure hot and cold. In your case you seem to feel strongly both ways, you know, lukewarm.

Anonymous said...

I do NOT want to say "good-bye" to summer,,want to say,,,,, see you again,,,,,SOON... And did we really even have summer this year of 2014? I must have missed it !!!

Anonymous said...

Dear 8:37, No I'm not a "lefty". But you must be a "righty" if you're out calling me names! No, I'm not "lukewarm"--I simply know that there IS global temperature change and mankind has some effect on it. Your attempt at throwing biblical slams at someone you don't agree with is disgusting ("lukewarm").

Anonymous said...

"In your case you seem to feel strongly both ways, you know, lukewarm." --- so a person can't believe in God, and climate change? wow. wake up!

Anonymous said...

Population explosion, ozone depletion, global warming, what will the next pseudo-crisis be?