We spent the afternoon exploring the Jardins Suspendus de Marqueyssac, perched high above the meandering Dordogne with stunning views of the surrounding valleys, villages, farms, and cliffside fortified castles.
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.
It’s the weekend of our church community’s annual retreat in Orkney Springs, Virginia, and, 2012 being the 50th anniversary of Vatican II, which helped drag the Catholic Church from the Middle Ages into modern times (well, at least into the 20th century), this was a natural subject for discussion. There were reminiscences by grandparents of growing up in the “Catholic ghetto”: gloomy churches, scary sermons about sinfulness and hell, and nary a non-Catholic to be seen… gradually replaced by Mass in the vernacular, greatly expanded participation by lay people, and reaching across the aisles, so to speak, to people of other faiths. What might be accomplished in the next fifty years? I’m sure MY to-do list doesn’t match that of the current Pope.
Accommodations at the retreat vary, and families with children are generally housed together, but rarely in Maryland House, pictured below. I learned this weekend that it’s an Adults-Only House, to which parents graduate when their children go off to college. Aha! That explains the singing, the clinking of glasses, and the boisterous laughter drifting across the lawn after the rest of us have put the kids to bed and crashed ourselves. And I thought it was coming from the Teen Camp.
Today, on the birthday of Robert Burns (1759-1796), I post the words of his beautiful and heart-tugging verse, as well as this painting (created long ago for the cover of a CD by musicians Linn Barnes and Allison Hampton), because a romantic rugged landscape with a castle and a red, red rose—albeit a Lancaster Rose—says “Robert Burns” to me.
If you have your hankie ready, you can listen to it sung by Scottish singer Andy Stewart.
O, my luve’s like a red, red rose,
That’s newly sprung in June:
O, my luve’s like the melodie,
That’s sweetly play’d in tune.
As fair art thou, my bonnie lass,
So deep in luve am I:
And I will luve thee still, my dear,
Till a’ the seas gang dry.
Till a’ the seas gang dry, my dear,
And the rocks melt wi’ the sun!
O I will luve thee still, my dear,
While the sands o’ life shall run.
And fare thee weel, my only luve!
And fare thee weel a while!
And I will come again, my luve,
Tho’ it were ten thousand mile.
The solid houses in the mist
are thin as tissue paper;
the water laps slowly at the rocks;
and the ducks from the north are here
at rest on the grey ripples.
The company in which we went
so free of care, so carelessly,
has scattered. Good-bye,
to you who lie behind in graves,
to you who galloped proudly off!
Pockets and heart are empty.
This is the autumn and our harvest—
such as it is, such as it is—
the beginnings of the end, bare trees and barren ground;
but for us only the beginning:
let the wild goat’s horn and the silver trumpet sound!
Reason upon reason
to be thankful:
for the fruit of the earth,
for the fruit of the tree,
for the light of the fire,
and to have come to this season.
from Meditations on the Fall and Winter Holidays
In honor of the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi, I post this painting of a view of his native town, along with the Peace Prayer of St. Francis, which expresses yearning for a kind of inner transformation difficult to achieve even over the course of a lifetime, but is worth regular inspirational revisiting. A baby step is at least a step.
Today is also the feast day, that is to say birthday, of writer and humorist Roy Blount, Jr. I don’t know if wild birds and hungry wolves eat tamely out of his hand, but dogs do. For a sketch, a riddle, and a mini-bio, please see Language Lover.