Autumn is waning here in north-eastern Minnesota. This weekend the leaves are at their peak but they are about to fall. We are having what in the United States is called "Indian Summer", a time deep in the autumn when unseasonably warm weather grants what seems a return of summer. Knowing that it's a reprieve -- fleeting, not here to stay -- makes it all the more precious. Typically we would have had a hard frost by now. All the annuals would be dead, the perennial tops yellowed and wilted over their crowns, the leaves down. We'd be wearing jackets and mittens and caps, not sandals and t-shirts. The soft mildness is sweet, sweeter because one knows it will be gone any minute.
Perhaps something of the intense sweetness of this time, when the growing world is on the cusp between seasonal life and death, is captured in these two beautiful new poems. Frodo revels in the Shire's autumn, actual and remembered, the time when the colour and fragrance of the natural world -- as various and as intense as at summer's height, if the colours and scents are different -- is at its keenest, precisely because it is on the verge of being lost. If it is not to death, it is to something like death, when growth and the promise of life suddenly are no longer accessible to the senses. One must enter winter, head into the time of greyness, of dearth and want, sustained only by hope in what is hidden, but working its revivifying magic under the soil.
But that time is not come, not yet. Not here in Minnesota and not in the Shire of these poems. One more day has come when the natural world glows with topaz and ruby and garnet, living leaf-jewels twinkling in the soft fragrant air. One blast and down the leaves will come, all colour bled from the landscape, scents muted by frost. But not yet, not yet.
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