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To Autumn

Updated: Jul 1, 2023

‘Seasons of mist and mellow fruitfulness’...

From John Keats, 'To Autumn'



This time of year, September, has always had an aspect of melancholy for me. It was early September when my first husband died of cancer. Though that was many, many years ago, the anniversary date evokes sorrowful recollections. I think of Steve’s final days, and how intense they were, of my panic following his loss. I wonder if I’ve learned anything in the many years since, whether I’m better equipped now than I was then to deal with my pain and that of others. Sometimes I feel I’ve matured, and can withstand life’s blows. Other days, I’m intensely fearful, fretting over possible catastrophes and desperately wanting to be reassured. I’m like a child begging her mother to assure her all will be alright. My mom couldn’t do it back then, and there’s really no one who can do it now.


These days are full of ongoing fragmentation, a continuous rearrangement of what felt like some kind of order. I detest nostalgia, longing for the old days. I don’t miss what went before. What I miss is a sense of the world being coherent, moving towards better times. Shattered, that’s all shattered. The climate is no longer moving towards disaster; catastrophe has arrived. Floods, fire, ice caps melting, deadly heat and attendant drought, Pakistanis dying in their waters, and villagers dying of their thirst. Right wing autocrats and hate mongers like Putin in Russia and Bolsonaro in Brazil, Republican Party senators in the US; anti-immigrant Tories in the UK; Sweden electing far-right ideologues. The list goes on. My knowledge, if not my understanding, of world disorder grows.


I don’t miss what went before. What I miss is a sense of the world being coherent, moving towards better times.

The war on Ukraine continues, no clear end in sight. At first, I read everything, scrabbled around frantically looking for ways to help. Over time--it’s been six months and counting--I turned away. I listlessly peruse the latest news, watching the endless posturing and the mounting deaths.


Here in the UK, the Queen’s timely death has unleashed even more possibilities for disorder. While much of the intense public grieving is surely genuine, some of it arises from despair over how bad things are on this little island. It’s a country run by people who seem to think the UK is still a world power rather than an insignificant little island. As an American, I’m amused and horrified at how the UK still has delusions of grandeur. Cutting itself off from Europe via Brexit was an insane act of self-harm. Dire predictions of shortages of food and fuel are made even more frightening by rising inflation and a government whose heart--and purse--is open to those who least need succor.


While much of the intense public grieving is surely genuine, some of it arises from despair over how bad things are on this little island.

What does it matter what I think and feel? How do I parse my insignificance? As I age, I’m slightly more comfortable with how truly miniscule my existence is--but only slightly. I rage still, not just against the dying of the light, but against the disorder which is unlikely to abate during my lifetime. There’s a perverse part of me that thinks, ‘since I’m going to die, why shouldn’t the world go with me?’ It’s a hideous form of self aggrandizement, a loathsome desire not to miss anything significant.


Meanwhile, as despairing as I often am, there’s still a sense of renewal that comes with the beginning of an autumnal new year. I’m glad to be swirling around in the continual confusion of this time in history. I make my little noises. I revel in that most human trait: the abstractions I create to make meaning of it all. Like these words.


1 comentário


At risk of seeming trite, Rose, I feel your pain. My autumnal feelings mirror yours, underscored by having lost my younger brother to cancer two months ago. And now I'm sitting in southwest Florida as Ian makes landfall a few miles south of us. Look at the universe, we pale to insignificance and can be gone tomorrow. (Though, as Bill Mauldin's Willie said to Joe in a famous WW2 cartoon, "The hell this isn't the most important foxhole in the world--I'm in it!")


Let go or get dragged. Mandela was right: Resentment is like drinking poison and hoping it will kill your enemy. Find whatever joy you can for yourself and David. "In the end it will all be OK.…

Curtir

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