Autumn is a time of year when mixed maturity and loss exist together in the poignancy that for much of Western history has been the heart of art.
Autumn Study: Red Cabbage, Sleet and Hawthorn Leaf
And a beautiful thing it is. The mushrooms popping up everywhere on the hills…
The berries ripening on the hedges …
The ragweed finally laying its pollen to rest and making peace with all men …
There’s something about the colour of this season, as in these “Hens and Chicks”, that never looked like this when they were digesting the summer sun.
The grapes on the vine, lingering forgotten long past harvest …
Can you hear the starlings?
The roses, catching the red rays of light and pulling at the heart strings…
The dogwoods, too, of course, showing their true colours, battered by a season, cut adrift by thin layers of cork at the base of each stem. They’re on their own now…
Soon the wind will take them.
For a long stretch of human history (well, all of it up until the last century) this was a human story, and a spiritual one. Now it’s part of the randomness of the universe. Ah, but look at the sumacs!
Random? Really? It Looks More Like the Big Bang.
Even cruel and stinking, disgusting weeds put on a show now…
Knapweed bursting in supernovas out of dead stalks.
Life, it seems, is not going out without a bang.
This is the glory time for orange lichens. They match the snow buckwheat flowers perfectly. And the snow buckwheat leaves match the grey lichens on the rocks. Is that random?
I’m not saying there is intelligent design in this universe. I am, however, pointing out that human observers see what is there for them to see. That includes the glory of harvest, the work of men and women with their hands to purify from a year’s sun and wind and rain the spirit of the year, which for millennia has been called wine.
Winemaking in Canada
Boys with Toys
Notice how the forklift appears to be powered by a beer keg.
Do no men touch the world with their bodies anymore and make of it an artwork? Have we, those of us who are artists, failed? Could it be that art is not part of the solution? That it’s part of the problem? Of course. It’s part of the culture. It’s still beautiful, certainly.
Modigliani Copy Contemplating a Feather, Gallery Vertigo, Vernon (Click)
But humans are not the only ones making art…
Coyote and Deer Footprints in the Vineyard Roadway Mud
Yes, of course, art theory holds that
if it’s not a conscious pattern it’s not art.
Isn’t that part of the bias? Isn’t that part of the problem?
The Glaciers Left It
Glacial erratic at the the top of the oldest rock in British Columbia, Okanagan Falls.
It’s not art in a human sense … so? Isn’t it time to get over ourselves? When I was a kid, I lived in the world. Now that I’m approaching the, ahem, autumn of my years as a man on this earth, I am still haunted by images like this:
Zinnia, Two Weeks Back
Each of those petals is a seed. You don’t get that in the summer.
I think there’s something to learn from the world. Like giving yourself away freely, as this rose is doing:
And fog. Contemporary culture says that fog conceals. Does it not rather also reveal? Are patterns dimly perceived perhaps stronger than those seen in sharp light?
And are three seasons of care not worth one flower?
And does that flower not contain the universe? Let the empirical workers scoff. What else is there at this time of year but this all-revealling, all-encompassing light?
You can’t measure it,
hold the voices of scientific mythology. Really?
Can’t you make coffee out of it? Is that not a measuring? Is it not “taking the measure”?
Dandelion root in a place of honour at the top of the day’s harvest. The anticipation of the hand work ahead of me, and then, finally, those few cups of glorious drink, fills me with joy. What else is there in this world? Not-Joy? Would you choose that?
So, maybe the thing is there are no words for this. That brings me back to my point: we, who call ourselves poets, have failed. We got distracted by words. My cousins, the Swiss Lutheran pastors, I’m pretty sure would say something like this,
But this is the price of original sin, Harold. Of course human cultures are broken. They can’t help but be.
Wise words. There is still, however, the mystery of grace.
Look at that. You can pick the universe off a tree. You can crack it open. You can taste it. You can be nourished by it. Yes, there are hard choices,
the price of progress,
and all that, but those are military choices, and militancy is not the goal. Peace is the goal, and union, grace and joy. There just are no words for this. They were blown out of the world when they were taken far too lightly by men called officers and the men they sent to die in the muddy fields of France in 1914, 1915, 1916, 1917, and 1918. We, who call ourselves poets, who stand in the shoes of the men and women who made our language out of the earth and the air, need to do the real work now, the work that was left off a century ago. What is that work? Well, maybe a start is to say it’s time to stop making art like this:
Harvest: A Lure for Humans
The shed no one uses, the wheelbarrow no one uses, the romantic flowers, the pumpkins no one eats. That’s a poem. It brings bodies in off the street, who bring their selves and their wallets with them. That’s not really respectful. That’s not really spirit.
So, I stopped by Poetry Magazine today, to see what they’re doing with their $100,000,000 bequest. I found right up front this poem by Fady Joudah, called Tell Life. Such beautiful language, so skillfully arranged, so deeply felt …
You can read the whole poem by clicking here. I suggest you do. It’s a strong piece.
… and so empty of spirit and of words to speak the ineffable. What is says is, really,
There are no words. One can only howl.
Really? There used to be words for this. The triumph of science and mechanized culture has stripped them from us … but shouldn’t we resist that, with grace?
Menhirs, Yverdon-les-Bains, Suisse
After 4,000 years, this place is still alive. It’s not history. It never went anywhere.
It is a commonplace of humanism that humans are masters of their own destiny. Does it have to come with spiritual poverty? Is that the price?
Are we all for sale? Are we all selling each other and our selves to each other? Really? Is it a price worth paying? Let me tell you my answer: no. It’s possible to talk. If this is where the language of poetry is now …
… and spiritual nourishment, the sacred apples the monks distributed throughout the German forests, to feed the people in body and soul has come to waste like this ….
Discarded Apples in Vernon…
left to Rot because they were marked by hail or touched by insects or wind.
… then it’s time to be men again. Cheap apples on the shelves of industrial grocery stores are subsidized by the death of culture and community. They leave us all alone on a dying earth, to celebrate dead soldiers on Remembrance Day, who died under the direction of fools. Why do I speak so strongly? Well, the mechanized killing of a million men in a summer to see who can kill the most is not worth celebrating. If we celebrate anything, let’s get the words right. That’s the real remembering. After a century of forgetting. Let’s start by correcting the original humanist and nationalist error, with one simple sentence:
It is not about us.
The owners of this place are watching.
It’s time we built a relationship again. Yes, with words, not with critical analysis, because, and I feel I must repeat it:
It is not about us.