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Posted October 4, 2010

Book: Autumn: A Spiritual Biography of the Season
Edited by Gary Schmidt and Susan M. Felch
Contributors include: Wendell Berry, David James Duncan, Robert Frost, A. Bartlett Giamatti, P.D. James, Julian of Norwich, Garret Keizer, Tracy Kidder, Anne lamott, May Sarton, Henry David Thoreau, E.B. White and many others. Skylight Paths Publishing, Woodstock, Vermont, 2010. pp. 298

An Excerpt from the Jacket:

More than just a last breath of warmth and comfort before the cold of winter, autumn is a time of change and of endings, of work and of celebration, of harvest and of thanksgiving. From the first day of school to walking in full-brightened fields to the winding of steeple clocks. Autumn: A Spiritual Biography of the Season is the perfect companion for your own experience of the season.

An Excerpt from the Book:

A Dissolving View

Autumn is the season for day-dreams. Wherever, at least, an American landscape shows its wooded heights dyed with the glory of October, its lawns and meadows decked with colored groves, its broad and limpid waters reflecting the same bright hues, there the brilliant novelty of the scene, that strange beauty to which the eye never becomes wholly accustomed, would seem to arouse the fancy to unusual activity. Images, quaint and strange, rise unbidden and fill the mind, until we pause at length to make sure that, amid the novel aspect of the country, its inhabitants are still the same; we look again to convince ourselves that the pillared cottages, the wooden churches, the brick trading-houses, the long and many-windowed taverns, are still what they were a month earlier.

The softening haze of the Indian summer, so common at the same season, adds to the illusory character of the view. The mountains have grown higher; their massive forms have acquired a new dignity from the airy veil which enfolds them, just as the drapery of ancient marbles serves to give additional grace to the movement of a limb, or to mark more nobly the proportions of the form over which it is thrown. The different ridges, the lesser knolls, rise before us with new importance; the distances of the perspective are magnified; and ye, at the same time, the comparative relations which the different objects bear to each other are revealed with a beautiful accuracy wanting in a clearer atmosphere, where the unaided eye is more apt to err.

There is always something of uncertainty, of caprice if you will, connected with our American autumn, which fixes the attention anew, every succeeding year, and adds to the fanciful character of the season. The beauty of spring is of a more assured nature; the same tints rise year after year in her verdure, and in her blossoms, but autumn is what our friends in France call “une beaute journaliere,” variable, changeable, not alike twice in succession, gay and brilliant yesterday, more languid and pale to-day. The hill-sides, the different groves, the single trees, vary from year to year under the combined influences of clouds and sunshine, the soft haze, or the clear frost; the maple or oak, which last October was gorgeous crimson, may choose this season to wear the golden tint of the chestnut, or the pale yellow of duller trees; the ash, which was straw-color, may become dark purple. One never knows beforehand exactly what to expect; there is always some variation, occasionally a strange contract. It is like awaiting the sunset of a brilliant day; we feel confident that the evening sky will be beautiful, but what gorgeous clouds or what pearly tints may appear to delight the eye, no one can foretell.

Table of contents:

1. Change

2. Endings

3. Work

4. Harvest

5. Thanksgiving