“Autumn sheds its varied windfalls.”
Nature is constantly prodding us, offering us something to humanize our life. Often we do not hear or notice. So, nature strives all the more, changing things up and trying to get our attention. This is always the pattern; and sometimes, we cannot but notice the display.
But what is autumn really offering to us? Virgil is a master of attending to the voice of nature. The Latin word here translated as windfalls (‘fetus,’ from which comes the English word for an unborn child) conveys a sense of fruiting and bearing of offspring. In autumn the generosity of nature overflows, with unexpected bounty and beauty.
Perhaps it should be expected. We are surprised again, surprised with joy. If we but stop, notice, and receive.
In the Shenandoah Valley some leaves are now changing—a hint of more to come. The nights are getting cool, likewise a foreshadowing and gentle transition. But again, what is the point? Just where are we being led? In a post a couple of weeks ago I suggested that autumn calls us to ‘rest.’ I want to push further.
In all its manifestations the whole of nature around us calls us, in different ways, to a fuller exercise of our humanity. We are called to come together with our loved ones in ever richer ways, whether in work or in leisure. It is always about something richer behind and within the physical manifestations.
Our livelihoods are not so connected to the land, so the teeming fruits of the earth right now do not so grab us. But at least the leaves—those amazing leaves!—not to mention these autumn evenings!—speak and call us to come together. And contemplate and reflect. Alone, and together.
At least in this, the varied windfalls of autumn can bear their intended fruit of a deepened humanity, in our souls and in our lives. So perhaps those autumn outings and walks and sitting down together are not just another nice idea. They are essential to our living well in the present, receiving the gift of autumn.
Virgil (70-19 B.C.) is the great Roman poet, author of The Aeneid and The Georgics. In the Divine Comedy he appears as Dante’s guide through hell and purgatory.
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Clare echoes Virgil:
from the Second Book of Virgil’s Georgics:
The olive-press is busy; sleek with acorns
The pigs come home; the arbutes in the woods
Give berries; autumn sheds its varied windfalls;
And high on sunny terraces of rock
The mellow vintage ripens.
from John Clare’s “Autumn”
The thistledown’s flying, though the winds are all still,
On the green grass now lying, now mounting the hill,
The spring from the fountain now boils like a pot;
Through stones past the counting it bubbles red-hot.
The ground parched and cracked is like overbaked bread,
The greensward all wracked is, bents dried up and dead.
The fallow fields glitter like water indeed,
And gossamers twitter, flung from weed unto weed.
Hill-tops like hot iron glitter bright in the sun,
And the rivers we’re eying burn to gold as they run;
Burning hot is the ground, liquid gold is the air;
Whoever looks round sees Eternity there.