That bright light of summer, the thin green-gold of vinho verde, has now matured into an amber sweet Sauternes poured over the landscape to remind you one last time – remember this: Soon, the light will be gone.
The insipid blue of the sky has mellowed and evolved, no longer aquamarine but sapphire into lapis, sharpening the details on the leaves, trees and the half-hidden apples glowing under foliage, ruby red a, the taste of summer distilled into a taste of a life, with sweet and tart and bitter earth beyond.
Smell them, even, lying on the ground, spilling their juices, the flavor of an oath they give to birds and voles and fiery red squirrels – we will return, another year, another spring, another fall, for you to eat – and remember.
Breathe it all in, the truffle scent of mushrooms, blooming suddenly on the burning green grass, the leaves dropping in a jewelled blaze of shocking color, the sharp smell of the fallen apples, fermenting for the birds, the grass, burned emerald glass by hoarfrost – the smell of sleep, lingering under hedgerows, whispering through the rowan trees.
The sounds of autumn – the geese, calling out “We’re going, we’re going – we’re…gone” in a song headed south, the rooks, lurking in the branches, black, ominous, guarding their trees beak and claw, for even they know – soon, they will be gone, too. Towering beeches, yellow-gold torches above the darker honey brown of the forest floor beneath, singing their regrets, they cannot stay, they must be going, going…down.
Down like the raindrops on a Sunday afternoon, playing their Debussy counterpoint on the windowpane, racing each other to the ground, and up above the next chill morning, a skinny sickle moon a little boy tries to catch with his hand, he’s so close, and the moon is his own that he can never catch, but it is – his moon.
His mother stands transfixed in that early Sauternes sunshine, holding acorns in her hand and knows the light that will return, the promises it holds and keeps the secret – that the oak and the woman are not so unalike. The hint of a mighty forest in the acorns carpeted beneath her feet, the suggestion of the man in the boy who stands there, holding her hand.
She knows that sleep and dreams shall not be so far behind, for the oak, for the woods, for the apple trees dropping their last fruit as she watches. She knows that secret scent exhaled by the stones and the pines, a scent of cold, of wet, of winter and regret for what left, and hope for what remains.
She knows. It’s an end holding another beginning, another promise, another hope and yet another dream to wish for, in the cold and dark awaiting them all.
It’s Summer’s End.
Image: Georgia O’Keeffe, “Autumn Leaves, Lake George, NY” 1924
Copyright Columbus Museum of Art, Ohio