The Northern Michigan JournalPREVIOUSNEXT

by Mark Smith
poplarsPoised at a moment of transition, autumn comes upon us, and if we are lucky enough to recognize it early, we are taken out of the loop. There is a peace in the midday hum of insects in September, far more soothing and profound than anything to be found in summer. Finally it is quiet again, and there is time to think.

The first hint of change comes in mid August, with a milky light at midday. There is a smell of spent leaves, and a coarse rustle in the popple trees that wasn’t there a week ago. The breeze is softer by the lake, even though the wind is strong. There is a silky steadiness that envelops you and lulls you into reveries of childhood. The days seem rooted to the past, and comforting memories of faded color snapshots superimpose themselves over the day’s business.

People have gone home, wherever that is, and what we are left with is a cleaner feeling. The psychic harm of tourism blinds us all summer long to the sense of time and place. Now we find ourselves removed from the blinding glare, and shadows reveal a depth of form and detail in our lives. In autumn there is a chance at redemption. Where are we? What is actually going on all around us? What has been happening all this time, and what can I do to connect with it? These are the questions that fall lets us ask - these, and the inevitable associations fall has with obligation and death. As the season rolls over we are summoned to our places, in the full expectation of a hard winter, but for a time, at least, the season is in remission, and we are blessed with a tender and ephemeral beauty.

We sigh, and go on. It’s a good time to be alive. The light filters through more and more of the trees and glances off passing cars, moving through dappled shade and into sun like loops of Zapruder footage. Wasps bump dumbly against screen doors and children pose for pictures next to grandma, eyes squinting against the low sun. Everyone goes home. For now we are taken out of the ongoing rush of the all-enveloping electronic ether, past the phony millennial hoopla and into the slipstream of realtime. The season has a pulse and it beats with us.

In autumn we can freely ignore the false hype of the “gridiron” world, and bask instead in the cyclical comfort of the changing of the year, in this, the briefest and most introspective of the seasons. How sad to switch on the t.v. at day's end and see the reporters interview the local coaches and athletes on their chances for success. Football, the most territorial and testosterone driven of all sports, sits so poorly with the season. We are stuck with a cultural artifact which, if we take it seriously, takes us out of the time, and splices us seamlessly back into the dorrito driven world of banality, at just the very time when we might have a chance to escape.

There is another world that needs to be ignored at this time of year. Administrators and bureaucrats reach out as one and pull us back, their letters all beginning suspiciously with the stock phrase “Whew, where did the summer go?” Trash it fast. We know where the summer went. It went, as it must, to make way for this brief time of gentle peace, which, if we let ourselves think, will enhance the rest of our days, and reward us with the mellow mists of remembered time.

Mark Smith is a teacher at Leland Public School. Among other things, he edits and webmasters a journal of student and teacher writing, The Beechnut Review.
Copyright 1998 Manitou Publishing Co. & Mark Smith • All Rights Reserved.

The Northern Michigan JournalPREVIOUSNEXT

Leelanau.Com's Fall Guide NMJ's Discussion Forum

Mail to NMJNMJ Home Page

nmj advertiserswebdesign by