Leaves on the spent canes of the
boysenberry vine crinkle and fade,
while congregations of Concord grapes
swell with purple sweetness.
Into the green globes hanging from the persimmon tree
an orange stain begins to creep.
Slowly the garden is bending towards autumn.
it surrenders its greenness willingly.
In a long, languid season
of praise for the light
it consents to the coming darkness.
May I join my voice to this
reach for candle and cup,
and trust in the secret gifts
the roots know
in the belly of the earth.
Title from “To Autumn” by John Keats
Our yet-to-be-born children would rock on this garden swing with their sweethearts one day, my ex-husband and I imagined when we bought it over twenty years ago. The jarrah wood was smooth then, polished a deep and lustrous brown. We bought a can of special oil too on the salesman’s recommendation, fully intending to recoat the swing at least once a year to protect the Australian hardwood, but that oil, like my husband and the dream of children we might have had, is long gone.
Instead the seasons in their turn have done the scouring and burnishing. For the last five years, in the garden I share with a new love, the swing has sheltered under the boughs of a redwood, its base moldering into the rich soil. Needles and cones and industrious spiders have joined the work of sun, wind, and rain to turn the wood rough and gray.
In the spring I brush away the cobwebs and duff and sit down on the old swing. My back nestles against a curve in its back, human spine, muscles, and sinew aligning with wood slats as if we were designed for one another. In the heat of the day the scent of feathery redwood branches mingles with childhood memories of camping in the mountains, and I push my foot against the cushion of forest floor in this little corner of my city garden to set the swing in motion. The rasp of wood in metal rings and bolts echoes the creak of my own joints. Someday I will accept my gray hair and wrinkles as graciously as I do this weather-roughened wood. Someday I will ripen into glory. But for now I glide back and forth with the whispers of those young lovers I dreamed of long ago. For now I am at ease in a moment of sun-softened stillness.