Sunday, September 5, 2010

After long silence

The beginning of fall, the beginning of September, the beginning of the school year. My school-teacher dreams of being in the wrong place, in the wrong subject-matter (always math), at the wrong time. The leaves drying on the ground, the day turning cool despite the sunshine. The wind blowing fresh from the north west across Lake Erie, the waves scudding towards the shore.

The memories of so many times looking at water, at times of enormous change. This near shore of Lake Erie after a death, the far expanse of San Francisco Bay absent of airplanes in the days after Sept. 11. The sense that everything changes, and that water is one of the great metaphors for that change.

And to find that sense of change to be at the center of the book I choose to read just now. Allegra Goodman's beautiful and moving novel about time, change, philosophy, and (ah!) cooking: The Cookbook Collector. A book to read in the fall, when those perfectly ripe peaches are ready for the eating.

What can I do in this time but turn back to Keats? There he was, almost 200 years ago, in the sun outside the old town of Winchester, thinking about his brother's death and his own tenuous hold on life. And watching the fruit ripen, perhaps he dared to eat a peach, and above all putting process, change, transience, into words. Just the first stanza for now. You can find the rest here. What about those bees, finding more and more flowers, lulled into thinking that it all will last, and yet knowing better?
Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness!
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eaves run;
To bend with apples the mossed cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For Summer has o'erbrimmed their clammy cells.