There’s a sweet hiatus between summer and fall in the few weeks after Labor Day, when the sky promises to be blue forever and only a dozen, drifting, saffron leaves hint of soon-to-be barren branches. This shift is especially noticeable to me, a refugee from the hot, beige skies of Southern California. Before moving to a ramshackle farm tucked away on a tiny island in the Pacific Northwest last year, seasons were meaningless. Roses bloomed nonstop all year-long and you pruned them —like over-extended, over-tired babies — forcing them to take a much-needed nap. Mother Nature was same-same 365; no pressing reason to pay her much mind.
Up here, Nature knocks and you answer. Seasons call the shots.
During this short, unheralded hiatus, the world seems to be holding its breath. It calls forth a deep-seated urge to reorder one’s life, to tidy up matters both physical and mental. To slow down and pay attention to what is.
Struck recently by visuals of the quiet ordering of abundance that’s afoot on this little island —and in my own life — as people begin to hunker down for winter, I interleaved images between the verses of David Budbill’s poem, This Shining Moment in the Now, which carries an essential message about this time of transition.
When I work outdoors all day, every day, as I do now, in the fall,
getting ready for winter, tearing up the garden, digging potatoes,
gathering the squash, cutting firewood, making kindling, repairing
bridges over the brook, clearing trails in the woods, doing the last of
the fall mowing, pruning apple trees, taking down the screens,
putting up the storm windows, banking the house—all these things,
as preparation for the coming cold…
when I am every day all day all body and no mind, when I am
physically, wholly and completely, in this world with the birds,
the deer, the sky, the wind, the trees…
when day after day I think of nothing but what the next chore is,
when I go from clearing woods roads, to sharpening a chain saw,
to changing the oil in a mower, to stacking wood, when I am
all body and no mind…
when I am only here and now and nowhere else—then, and only
then, do I see the crippling power of mind, the curse of thought,
and I pause and wonder why I so seldom find
this shining moment in the now
I find it bracing to consider Budbill’s words during these few weeks between fading summer and not-quite fall, as I gather the last of the summer harvest and apples for cider. He reminds me, when my chittering monkeymind churns me up, to simmer down, to re-affirm that every moment is a shining moment…
I repeat the mantra, over and over: there is nothing… except… now.
Poem from While We’ve Still Got Feet by David Budbill