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QUINTESSENCE

Autumn Strikes A Bell


VARIATION ON A THEME BY RILKE
[The Book of Hours, Book I, Poem I, Stanza I]
by Denise Levertov

A certain day became a presence to me;
there it was, confronting me - a sky, air, light:
a being. And before it started to descend
from the height of noon, it leaned over
and struck my shoulder as if with
the flat of a sword, granting me
honor and a task. The day's blow
rang out, metallic - or was it I, a bell awakened,
and what I heard was my whole self
saying and singing what it knew:
I can.

Time to revisit this beautiful poem by Denise Levertov. Autumn is my favorite season: afternoons of long golden light, the warmth of the earth slow to rise, seeking to linger. The sun bright and scraped of heat, days clear and crisp at the edges. September skies can be so hard a blue your gaze deflects, skitters away. White nimbus clouds pile into low banks of gray on their stately southern march.

This is a time of preparation, renewal, focus. The field mouse scurries to gather seeds, the squirrels are stuffing nuts in holes all about the yard. Overhead the geese are on wing and the small singing birds dart about building fat reserves, their songs set aside. Nature offers its harvest bounty and the creatures of the earth gather it in. Do we not also feel this gathering of energies, the tingle of change in our bones?

Levertov's poem so clearly speaks of wholeness, aliveness, presence. Easing from the months of warm summer into bleak winter signals something to our souls. We know this as the Monarch butterflies know now is the time to begin their journey to Mexico. We stretch. We shake off summer somnolence and look to the future. The new school year turns childhood forward a year, our days of rest and play behind us. We gather and tend and set aside. What is there yet to do? What is there that must be done? Autumn signals an accounting and an assessment, a refresh of goals and plans for our tomorrows yet to come.

Autumn strikes a bell that all may hear. If we listen, we hear the reverberations within ourselves. Gather the ripe September apples and take a bite of the tart goodness. What does the sound of your whole self ringing sing to you?

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