Marotta column for November 29-December 2, 2007
I thought I knew every tool in the lawn crew’s toolbox until today, when I saw a small wooden ladder propped against the trunk of a tall sugar maple.
But why had this lawn crew, now off eating lunch, placed it so precisely there?
I couldn’t imagine -- until it suddenly came to me that this tree had been fully leafed out in gorgeous coral at 8 a.m. and now, at noon, it was nearly bare – which progression leads me to the inescapable conclusion that the lawn men climbed up the ladder into the tree’s wide graceful limbs and then shook them so hard that their leaves fell.
An efficient system, maybe, but not the way most of us want to end the growing season. Because isn’t it at least in part the exquisite slowness of autumn’s swoon into winter that we find so moving?
I think of Robert Frost pleading with the force governing leaf-drop to take its time. “Release one leaf at break of day/At noon release another leaf,” he says in his poem “October.” And further on, he begs that unseen hand, “Retard the sun with gentle mist/Enchant the land with amethyst.”
Asked to witness this slow death every year, enchantment is what we yearn for. That and the ability to see it all whole, meaning in the seed-time to remember the season of budding.
It’s this ability that sets us most apart from the animals: We can look back along the path we have made. We do look back and on seeing it, we yearn to bless it and call it a good path.
Last month I wrote a column about the concept of home that brought me many wonderful letters from people eager to say what the word meant to them.
Paul Chayka, a self-described engineer and closet writer wrote, “Home is the pan you use for tuna casserole. Home is the tuna casserole. Home is the tool drawer in the kitchen you went to as a kid for string, pliers or a screwdriver and still do as an adult. Home is the feel of the couch under your body. …”
Who says we’re not all poets underneath?
And 83-year-old Jack Schwarzkopf had this to say:
“I don’t write letters, mostly because my hand is so bad, but I enjoyed your Connecticut Post column about going home, so I’m breaking a rule. My mother was born in County Cork, then came here. Things were not that good so she never got back. My wife, Barbara, and her friend went to Ireland to look for their people but never found them. Barbara was with the WACs in WWII, stationed in Florence. We went back there and she said it looked the same as 25 years before. She is gone now so we won’t be looking anymore.”
He closed by saying this was “too much from an old man” but no, Jack, it is never too much. Never, never too much when a person looks at his life and says what he sees.
It’s what I do every week in the paper; what two of my four books seek to teach people to do for themselves.
Even a little child has the skill for it. Not many mornings ago, my nursery-school-aged grandson looked in his parents’ bedroom and saw a warm orange light filling both windows.
He ran right to the kitchen to fetch them.
“Come!” he said with his little vocabulary. “See the beautiful!”
How pleased God would be if at every season we did only this – said only this -- about the intricate and lovely world He has made for us.
Write Terry at firstname.lastname@example.org or care of Ravenscroft Press, PO Box 270 Winchester MA 01890.