Not Just the Colour of the Leaves
Nothing touches my emotions more regarding the change from summer to fall than a poem by the German poet Rainer Maria Rilke, titled “Herbsttag” = “Autumn Day”. I see myself wandering the lanes, looking down and pushing millions of colorful leaves, yellow-orange-red and even a bit of green left over with my feet, thinking of my long gone childhood days, and my children digging themselves into piles of raked up leaves. My mood turns sentimental, even sad. Life seems so short looking back. There was the happy worry free time I have shared with my great grandmother and my grandparents, the years when I was loved, protected and guided by my parents. I see myself with my aunts, uncles, cousins and friends. Three generations… How many wonderful people I met throughout the years! In retrospect it seems I only did have very little time with any of them. I am thinking about how fast the generations have gone and how few of my loved ones closer to my own age are left. I am next in line, just a leaf blowing in the wind. I think of the many things I have done; the many things I wish I had done and the many things I might never be able to do now.
The poet Rainer Maria Rilke expresses these sentiments beautifully:
‘Lord, the time has come
A beautiful summer is gone.
Your shadow on the sundials changed
you let the winds blow over the fields.
Help the last fruit to ripen,
give them a few more, warmer days,
let them fulfill their destiny
and put the sweetness in the heavy wine.
Who has no house – will not build now.
Who is alone now will remain so, long.
Will lie awake, will read and write long letters,
will restless wander up and down the lanes, –
when the leaves are drifting….’
I can’t make Rilke’s poem my own. No translation does it justice. Other than in his words one cannot express all he himself felt when writing it. I feel him with me when I read it. I see myself sitting in a comfortable chair in a corner of a cozy room, watching him write it, a green-shaded lamp on the desk in front of the window, he himself bent over, his paper the only bright spot in the surrounding shadows. I feel he wrote it for me. When I came across it for the first time I choked, I knew I was receiving a message. The poem evokes many feelings, feelings about the past, feelings about giving thanks for the bounty of a season past and feelings of loneliness, of impending doom, of death and still, – feelings of hope invade my thoughts. Hope for another autumn day when the sunlight brightens the color of the leaves, makes the reds deeper, the yellows brighter and turns the already dying ones to copper. I shall push the leaves under my feet until they fly up into the air, feel like a child again, I want to laugh but feel too silly knowing there are people watching me. I look at the remaining colorful leaves on the trees and marvel about nature. An endless cycle of birth and rebirth, and every season has its own colors. As every generation has and still, they all are blending into and are part of our life.
‘Lord, the time has come….’
The time has come to sort out your harvest, to put the garden to sleep after planting next years crop, to reset the thermostat for more warmth and take the winter jackets out of storage. The time has come to be closer together with your loved ones, invite the lonely, share a warm drink and listen to each other’s memories, the stories of the ever-changing seasons of life.