Windfall apples diced and simmering on the stove. Chard and kale in leafy abundance for sautés and smoothies. Sungold tomatoes sweet enough to eat right off the vine. Delicata squash still ripening as its vine dies back. Raspberry canes still bearing a few red jewels when we remember to check. All the gatherings of fall, the gifts that make it possible to let go of long, sunny summer days and turn again toward the hearth.
And so we let go of eating summer salads outside on the deck, swimming in lakes, pulling weeds after dinner as the sun goes down. We light a fire in the wood stove, dust off the books in the library, make soup, roast beets and squash, welcome the return of the salmon.
As we gather the harvest, fall reminds us of the importance of gathering together with friends again, too . I don’t know about you, but I find it hard to stay inside long enough to write in the summer. Instead, I carry my notebook with me, filling it with notes and sketches of what I observe. Now, I pull out that notebook, transcribe the notes, see if I might find the seed for a poem or two. As I work on those poems, I turn to my writing friends for feedback and our workshop starts up again after a long summer break.
Other gatherings happen in fall. In late September, I made the trek across the state to teach at Litfuse, a poetry gathering in Tieton. Thanks to the tireless efforts of Michael Shein, Carol Trenga and Ed Marquand, among others, Litfuse has become a vital celebration of poetry in all its diverse forms. I taught a workshop called “Words from the Land: Connecting with our Common Ground,” which seemed appropriate since Tieton is in the heart of apple orchard country. We read poems from the anthology: In Praise of Fertile Land, published by Whit Press, then wrote about our own connections to the land.
One of the participants was inspired to write about the apples she grew up with back east: the MacIntosh.
My Vagabond Song
“The scarlet of the maples can shake me like the cry of bugles going by”
A Vagabond Song, Bliss Carmen, 1894
A Macintosh Apple doesn’t travel well
across the country.
It needs to stay home in New England
in the crisp autumn nights that
turn leaves red and gold
in the black soil full of humus
and colonial history
crisp thin skin with
tang and tartness
cut with sugary juices to the snap bite.
Last year on my birthday
Kathy sent me
in an envelope
some Macintosh seeds
from an apple she had just eaten.
The smell of wood smoke
down Frost’s country road
thick in mudtime
past orchards getting smaller
as they are everywhere.
I want to feel its dark red roundness
warm in my palm
so I can put my head down
and smell it
and go home.
Peggy Barnett, 2014
I’ll end on a quote from a book I’m reading by Julian Hoffman: The Small Heart of Things: Being at Home in a Beckoning World. He begins with a line from Rilke: “Everything beckons us to perceive it, murmurs at every turn,” then goes onto remind us that “the art of perceiving is more about reception than it is vision. We don’t have to struggle to see things, Rilke suggests, for they are already there, calling us. The difficulty lies in unlearning our tendency toward indifference….There is possibility in the smallest of things, the most innocuous of moments. More mystery can be found in a few moments spent in a stand of trembling reeds than a lifetime passed in an unperceived world.”
May fall bring you many opportunities for noticing the beckoning world—see if you can notice some small natural detail you’d overlooked before—and for gathering together to share what you notice with friends. You might also consider attending a writer’s conference in your area or creating your own writer’s gathering. It could be as easy as inviting a few friends over for tea and sharing your fall harvest of words.
yours in gratitude for the abundance of fall,