Spring and Fall
BY GERARD MANLEY HOPKINS
to a young child
Márgarét, áre you gríeving
Over Goldengrove unleaving?
Leáves like the things of man, you
With your fresh thoughts care for, can you?
Ah! 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 wíll 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.
The great Jesuit poet and wordsmith Gerard Manly Hopkins inked my favorite line in the canon of English Literature, Though worlds of wan wood leaf meal lie.
Sound and sense in a single sentence!
Worlds of wan wood leaf meal lie - I am aging, but also aged. Well, past intimations of my own mortality and I have survived many brushes with the old Reaper to make the End all too kindness.
What is more real than knowledge that “I too shall pass from this life” is the fact that life imposes itself more powerfully than front pages loaded with COVID 19 alarms, or scores of black people gunned down every day in Englewood, Gresham, or Lawndale.
I know that I am going to die and could care less. Life is so much more interesting, pleasing and salubrious. Relatives have passed home to Christ. Old friends the same. However, the intimations of God’s eternal plan break through all of the personal disappointments with each morning’s sky full of sunrise and the majestic orange colored skies that are only bested by the pink and purple hues over Lake Michigan.
This Fall, the change in the Indiana and Michigan foliage available a very few minutes east or west of my Michigan City apartment seem especially magnific in this year of the puff- pandemic and the howlingly dull roars of the revolutionary poseurs of the American elites. The visual delights of autumn white pine, the hemlock and green, blue and black ash, as well as the many maple, black walnut, birch, dogwoods, cottonwoods and hawthorns drown out the concocted audibles from the television, radio and street -pulpit opinionators to great effect. Alas, all shall shortly become a world of ‘wan wood’ (fallen leaves) and leaf meal lie as opposed to merely piecemeal. The sweet green leaves of Summer have turned, as do we all.
Yet, the beauty of fall has not yet peaked here in Northwestern Indiana and Southwestern Michigan. Things are getting mighty pretty!
The prettiness abounding this season stands proof that God exists and exists to make us want to be happy, delighted and generous. We do our damnedest make things otherwise. The nonsense and rhetoric of the times strangles our senses and starves us of universal beauty that can only drive us to universal truth. When we are delighted by sounds, smells, sights and sensations that cost us not a dime, something pumps the milk of kindness through our otherwise clotted arteries and somehow allows us to greet our fellow strugglers with benevolence and even charity. Can’t get that watching Fox, CNN, or Rachel Ray.
If a cynical old south sider can be sparked and reassured of God’s happy plan and design universal, imagine what a sensitive soul might discover above the noise and deep within the fibers of life itself. Food tastes better. Dogs and cats make me laugh longer. The smell of baked goods and boiling shrimp awaken the trencherman and sounds of Michigan waves lapping the sand north of Route 12 make me want to dance like Zorba. Mind you, I exercise great restraint and have no desire to have a net tossed over me. My spirit soars like Elon Musk’s Space X Falcon, but my feet remain locked in a stout pair of Johnson and Murphy wing tips.
Take flight on Route 12 from the steel mills east up to and through Berrien County, Michigan. Who needs a trip to the Red Planet, when one has the Red Arrow Highway? Take some side trips to Heston, Rolling Prairie and New Carlisle, Indiana and make sure to travel Fail Road up over the Indiana State Line to Three Oaks. This road is a particularly magical one and leaves you with the impression that you are passing through a Green, Gold, Red and Brown tunnel.
Life is evident and you soul will get juiced. Take in the ash, aspen, elm, and oak trees and come Spring hunt up morel mushrooms in their shade.
Unlike Margaret who grieves over the fallen leaves, we who have known loss and disappointments as well as the joys and triumph of living a studied life, you will be energized and stoked to pull in tomorrow’s wonders.
Get in the car and keep your eyes open . . .and on the road.
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Spring and Fall