My Parents, a Forest, Some Clues (Republished)
[This is a seasonal piece from Unit Three Writings]
MY SEASON APPROACHES and with it arrive my best prospects for redemption. I refer to September, both as the ninth month and as a stage of Life–the ripeness of being that precedes the bitter cold. I refer to the September I was born in and those sweet, sad days that invite surrender to Melancholy’s caress.
This belief takes shape in me only now, at fifty. It formed in increments by way of three separate and eclectic experiences. The first came while I was away at college, that blissful period when my future was indiminishable by doubt or skepticism, and a writing pad stuck out of my back pocket that I might recognize and record rare insights and essences. I had indulged myself the title of minor poet, and one night, in artsy environs and under the spell of mutual recognition, I shared scribblings with a fellow bard. I twice read his short offering and immediately knew him to be authentic, a seer-wordsmith. Today, I remember only the last two lines: “. . .we die, the young inherit/ all those fallen clues.”
I have spent the interim of my life in a semi-distracted state, watchful for clues.
The second experience was much less an evening’s event than a long and clarifying indoctrination. Having stood before and basked beneath the steadfast and consistent example of my parents’ Love, my father’s dutiful expression of it and my mother’s more impetuous and joyful version, I accepted the premise of Love as a constant–as a bridge across the chasm of change.
Having stood before and basked beneath the steadfast and consistent example of my parents’ Love, my father’s dutiful expression of it and my mother’s more impetuous and joyful version, I accepted the premise of Love as a constant–as a bridge across the chasm of change
Thornton Wilder wrote of such a bridge. But in their example I also got a glimpse of the only God that ever made sense to me. The God that had been once, Everything, but was also then completely undefined and universally lonely. The God that ceded a significant portion of Godliness over to emptiness then in a cataclysm of selflessness dispersed to become Love instead, a perfect contrast to the void.
I think people should capitalize the word Love.
Finally last year, my watchfulness still acute, I stood rapt amid the splendorous display of the Northern Wisconsin forest in late September. A host of trees in quiet unison pushed their branches to the outermost extension to place the leaves in full view. The chilling winds would soon arrive yet the leaves were at their most brilliant. Within days they might lose hold and fall, yet the message of each and of all was unmistakable: shine. They shone despite the shying sun and the looming cold.
They shone like Love across the void.
The violet of sumac shone like the straining hearts of first Love. The leaves of oak shone as small shields forged from the bronze of duty. The maple made bright red embers of Joy–they almost warmed the air. The birch were golden as Charity, while the firs barely shaded their rich green hue as an example of Hope undying. Yet all but Hope would drift down, settling to enrich the forest soil–like clues dropped amidst the young…
It’s only July, but restlessly now I watch the sky for the first shortened arc of the zenith; I test the evening air for a sudden chill.
My season approaches, my September, and with it arrive my best prospects for redemption, my chance to shine.
[This piece was my first use of the styled essay form. It took the better part of a year from conception to first draft. I played with the idea that I might be a late bloomer–which would offer a convenient rationalization or validation for decades of underachievement. Once the form took hold, I wrote it in a few hours with the usual myriad revisions. Everyone writes differently of course, but the works that end-up best for me usually involved the most work—often contemplation of structure and form or framing.]