Midweek. I find myself muttering “how is it only Tuesday?”

Perhaps your life, too, is a little bit of a whirlwind at the moment. I don’t have time to read long posts (even really good ones), and I definitely don’t have time to write them. Instead, I spend my days on reams of emails, loads of posts in Moodle and Teams, masses of Powerpoints and VoiceThreads. Most of my bandwidth is taken by trying to teach my students wherever they are (in the classroom, streaming, asynchronously learning in some faraway place) and however they find themselves. I’m so glad we’re able to continue to have class, but as a friend said today, the “reservoir of grace” is often not as abundant as one would like.

I have an 8 o’clock class this term. A stretch for this decided night owl. But it means I’m driving to campus in the newly chilly mornings that herald the season’s turning. What things will come in this uncertain time? Hard to say. Another drain on the “reservoir.” But the poems that I share with you today give me another view, another way to understand something the autumn teaches: that the very dependability of the seasons’ change–something so often unsettling in other contexts–is actually a gorgeous reassurance, especially in Mary Oliver’s imagining. We may as well, as Emily Dickinson urges, embrace, even if only in a small, “trinket”-y way, the moments of beauty that this new season has on offer.

Song for Autumn
Mary Oliver
 
Don’t you imagine the leaves dream now
how comfortable it will be to touch
the earth instead of the
nothingness of the air and the endless
freshets of wind? And don’t you think
the trees, especially those with
mossy hollows, are beginning to look for
 
the birds that will come — six, a dozen — to sleep
inside their bodies? And don’t you hear
the goldenrod whispering goodbye,
the everlasting being crowned with the first
tuffets of snow? The pond
stiffens, and the white field over which
the fox runs so quickly brings out
its blue shadows. The wind wags
its many tails. And in the evening
the piled firewood shifts a little,
longing to be on its way.
 
Published in Poetry, May 2005
The morns are meeker than they were - (32)
Emily Dickinson
The morns are meeker than they were - 
The nuts are getting brown -
The berry’s cheek is plumper -
The rose is out of town.
 
The maple wears a gayer scarf -
The field a scarlet gown -
Lest I sh'd be old-fashioned 
I’ll put a trinket on. 

Jennifer L. Holberg

I’ve taught English at Calvin College since 1998–where I get to read books and talk about them for a living. What could be better? Along with my wonderful colleague, Jane Zwart, I am the co-director of the Calvin Center for Faith and Writing, which is the home of the Festival of Faith and Writing as well as a number of other exciting endeavors. Given my interest in teaching, I’m the founding co-editor of the Duke University Press journal Pedagogy: Critical Approaches to Teaching Literature, Language, Composition and Culture (and yes, I realize that that is a very long subtitle). As an Army brat, I’ve never lived anywhere as long as I’ve now lived in Grand Rapids, a city I've come to love. I count myself rich in friends and family. I collect cookbooks (and also like to cook), listen to all kinds of music, and watch all manner of movies and tv shows. I love George Eliot, Jane Austen, Marilynne Robinson, Dante, E.M. Delafield, Tennyson, Hopkins, and Charlotte Bronte (among others). And I used to have a bumper sticker on my car that said: “I’d rather be reading Flannery O’Connor.” I don't have the car anymore, but the sentiment is still true.

5 Comments

  • Daniel J Meeter says:

    Thank you.

  • Jan Zuidema says:

    Perfect for the first morning there are noticeable yellow and red tips on the trees across the pond and outside my morning coffee windows. And, wanting to be in step with the now, I too shall put some little trinket on. Thank you!

  • Jan Hoffman says:

    The challenge of moving to Florida and living here year round is finding new images, the upstate NY images don’t work anymore. I’d appreciate your help as September ripens, the hibiscus still bloom and the foliage is green and lush. Thank you, Jennifer.

  • Harvey Kiekover says:

    Thank you. A kind, gentle, warm, reassuring, hopeful word that reached my heart this morning. But I’m not putting on a trinket. 🙂

  • Bob Crow says:

    Thanks for coaxing us past summer. With hope.

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