Summer officially came to an end at 10:21 Eastern Daylight Time this morning. Welcome Autumn with a poem by William Wordsworth.
I’ve watched you now a full half-hour,
Self-poised upon that yellow flower;
And, little Butterfly! indeed
I know not if you sleep or feed.
How motionless!—not frozen seas
More motionless! and then
What joy awaits you, when the breeze
Hath found you out among the trees,
And calls you forth again !
This plot of orchard-ground is ours;
My trees they are, my Sister’s flowers;
Here rest your wing when they are weary;
Here lodge as in a sanctuary!
Come often to us, fear no wrong;
Sit near us on the bough!
We’ll talk of sunshine and of song,
And summer days, when we were young;
Sweet childish days, that were as long
As twenty days are now.
The lovely village of St. Cyprien-Dordogne is where we were living last Thanksgiving, celebrating quietly and far from home. This year, back in our native land, and happy and thankful for the beloved company of family and old friends, we’re also grateful for those we came to know in our adopted land and anxious about the recent attacks on this spirited, creative, humorous and resilient people. I look forward to a day (probably centuries beyond my lifetime) when we might celebrate in harmony a universal Thanksgiving in appreciation for our beautiful world and everyone in it.
Below, a poem for this day.
Not because of victories
but for the common sunshine,
the largess of the spring.
Not for victory
but for the day’s work done
as well as I was able;
not for a seat upon the dais
but at the common table.
For the first of October, a poem by Hilda Doolittle, and a painting of Saturday market pears and calendula (growing wild by the Languedoc vineyards and known locally as souci).
I saw the first pear
as it fell-
the honey-seeking, golden-banded,
the yellow swarm
was not more fleet than I,
(spare us from loveliness)
and I fell prostrate
you have flayed us
with your blossoms,
spare us the beauty
the air thundered their song,
and I alone was prostrate.
god of the orchard,
I bring you an offering–
do you, alone unbeautiful,
son of the god,
spare us from loveliness:
these fallen hazel-nuts,
stripped late of their green sheaths,
dripping with wine,
pomegranates already broken,
and shrunken figs
and quinces untouched,
I bring you as offering.
—H.D. (Hilda Doolittle)
Here is a new calendar for 2015, each month featuring one of my seasonal still-lifes. I’m taking orders, but unfortunately they have to be received by Sept. 9th for me to place the order. Not much time, I’m afraid! Next year there will be more advance notice. Please contact me if you have any questions. Your calendar will reach you before the end of September. Shipping is 2-day Priority Mail, domestic US. (But if you are in my area you can get it from me directly without shipping!)
For the autumn equinox today, a poem by Gerard Manley Hopkins, and a painting.
Márgarét, are you gríeving
Over Goldengrove unleaving?
Leáves líke the things of man, you
With your fresh thoughts care for, can you?
Áh! ás the heart grows older
It will come to such sights colder
By and by, nor spare a sigh
Though worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie;
And yet you will weep and know why.
Now no matter, child, the name:
Sórrow’s spríngs áre the same.
Nor mouth had, no nor mind, expressed
What heart heard of, ghost guessed:
It ís the blight man was born for,
It is Margaret you mourn for.
—Gerard Manley Hopkins
While a few weeks of the season still remain to us, a poem for fall, from our family dinner-table verse book.
This coming Sunday, October 28th, is the last day that Fletcher’s Boathouse will be open for canoe rentals. I had hoped for an end-of-season family excursion gliding up the Potomac River to gaze at autumn color, hawks and herons, and lichen-covered boulders reflected in the leaf-sprinkled water. However, it looks as if all will be rained out (or possibly snowed in) with the approach of Tropical Storm Sandy, which is already wreaking havoc further southeast. Let’s hope it’s short-lived.
Here is a poem for this bright and watery season.
Another year gone, leaving everywhere
its rich spiced residues: vines, leaves,
the uneaten fruits crumbling damply
in the shadows, unmattering back
from the particular island
of this summer, this NOW, that now is nowhere
except underfoot, moldering
in that black subterranean castle
of unobservable mysteries—roots and sealed seeds
and the wanderings of water. This
I try to remember when time’s measure
painfully chafes, for instance when autumn
flares out at the last, boisterous and like us longing
to stay—how everything lives, shifting
from one bright vision to another, forever
in these momentary pastures.
Here is a poem (author unknown) from our mealtime verse book, and I post it today in honor of the birthday of my cousin Dianne (which she shares with her twin Monica). Tuesday, October 2nd, marked the one-year anniversary of Dianne’s passing after a lengthy and painful struggle with two rare blood disorders, throughout which she remained, as always, the Merry Lass that her circle of family and friends knew so well and miss so much.
Today is the feast of Michaelmas, on which we acknowledge and resolve to transform our Inner Dragons, an ongoing and elusive undertaking that is refreshed by this annual reminder. And it helps to dress ourselves and our table in red, and for breakfast to dine upon freshly baked dragon bread with honey and cider and apples from the Saturday farmers market.
Here is the recipe I use for Dragon Bread. It’s a modification of “Arkansas Hot Rolls,” one I clipped from The Washington Post at the time of Bill Clinton’s first inauguration, a recipe to which we now refer as “Bill’s Buns.” (Now, there’s a fellow who has wrestled impressively with his inner dragons.) Next year I resolve to photograph and post the steps for shaping the dough. The one pictured below is about 18” wide, making enough to share with neighbors.
3/4 cup butter
1 cup scalded milk
2 eggs, beaten
3/4 cup brown sugar
1-1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup cold water
2 T dry yeast
1/4 cup lukewarm water
3-1/2 cups unbleached white flour
3 cups whole-wheat flour
More flour as needed
Combine butter and scalded milk and stir until butter is melted. Combine beaten eggs, brown sugar and salt and beat in the cold water.
Soften yeast in the lukewarm water. Combine the three mixtures and then add HALF the flour. Stir well and let this sponge rise about 45 minutes. Then stir down and add the rest of the flour and knead well about ten minutes, adding small handfuls of flour if necessary if the dough is very sticky. (This varies depending upon kind of flour and humidity.) Place in a LARGE bowl, cover with a towel, and allow to rise for about 2 hours.
Then shape it into a dragon (see directions for this in September 2013)—or into anything you like!—and place it on a buttered baking sheet sprinkled with cornmeal, with plenty of room around it for a final rising. Bake in a preheated 350º oven for about 50 minutes total. BUT you must do this in stages, covering the crisping brown edges with aluminum foil starting at about 20 minutes, to prevent them from burning. Serve with butter and honey.