A few weeks ago a friend from western New York sent me a packet of autumn leaves from her woods. They were still soft, just fallen, red and orange and yellow and chartreuse, bright with banked fires.
Until I moved east from California to live with my sweetheart in an old farmhouse in Colden, New York, I had never lived in a place with four distinct seasons.
That October I fell into the madness of love, wandering in the woods, cramming my pockets with leaves that soon faded, staring at the intense blue of the sky. I wrote a love poem, “Fat Time.” And then, as the year turned, I wrote more love poems to other seasons, to a landscape of intoxicating sensory transformation.
The poems became my first book, a cycle of praise poems called Here Along Cazenovia Creek.
I had never known what the winter solstice meant until I lived along Cazenovia Creek. I had never burrowed deep, never wakened to utter white silence. I had never felt a leap of gratitude at the first fat bud, the first bulb pushing through gray ice. I had never swum through air heavy with the respiration of swollen leaves, never watched young deer play leapfrog in the long midsummer evenings.
Now I live in a place where there are no seasons. It is a bold, handsome palette of greens and tropical reds, the same all year round. It is beautiful, and there is no bitter cold, but it does not speak of transformation.
So I miss Colden, especially in the autumn and at times like this — remembering pumpkins and scarecrows, bowls of apples and Indian corn from local farms, a crepuscular early winter dusk, perhaps the first dusting of snow.
Here is a poem for Hallowe’en in Colden, New York, with love and gratitude:
All Saints Eve
At dawn, leaf-ammil flashes
morse for sun.
Old texts of tires melt
into the highway’s margins.
The syllables of maple branches lose
their thousand tongues.
Leaves molder into veins, ghost hands
The last light bears language into darkness.