Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Summer's end


Last night, as I made my pre-bedtime rounds to check on, cover, and kiss sleeping children, I closed every window in the house for the first time since Spring. My sunflowers have withered and my remaining tomatoes will stay green on the vines. I hate winter. I try very hard not to think about my life in terms of sacrifices I have made, things I have given up. I prefer to embrace, in a whole-hearted way, the choices I have made and the hand I have been dealt. But having grown up in the tropics, winter's a tough one for me. Every winter a small cold cranky part of me thinks, 'Damn it! If it wasn't for this man I love beyond all things who is also my best friend and who I would gladly die for, I'd be living someplace warm and sunny!' Hmmm..... Love or good weather? Tough choice.

But winter here is really rotten. The sky is continuously grey. Any snow on the ground very quickly gets piled to the curb where it sits for months and quickly goes from white to grey to black from exhaust fumes. No sparkly winter wonderland for us. In the coming months I'll try not to bitch about it too much, but I want you all to know that I'm being very very stoic and brave.

Not surprisingly, every year around this time, I revisit Keats's "Ode to Autumn," my favorite of all his odes. He wrote it when he already had tuberculosis (which he caught from lovingly nursing his brother Tom, who died young of TB) and knew that he, too, was headed for early death. [Aside: God I love John Keats! He was exactly my height, 5'2", nursed his younger brother, was unrequitedly in love with Fanny, and wrote gorgeous and, to my mind, really sexy poems! Sigh.... He puts the "romantic" in "Romantic Poetry."] Anyway, here's a link to the whole poem, and I'll let him end this post with the final stanza of that brilliant poem. Remember that the shadows are lengthening around him too. He knows he will most likely die, as his brother did, young and never reaching his full ripeness.

Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,
While barrèd clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue,
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
Among the river shallows, borne aloft
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies,
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn,
Hedge-crickets sing, and now with treble soft
The red-breast whistles from a garden-croft,
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.

9 comments:

mrpeenee said...

I am so with you sister. I grew up with no exposure to snow and still regard it with great suspicion. People should understand it’s simply unnecessary.

Miss Janey said...

Lovely post, Miss Elizabeth. MIss J is so under-educated in teh poetry department- its nice when otehrs share what they enjoy.

Miss J is glad her mister makes his living in metro LA and not outside of Buffalo where Miss J spent her years from 8 to 18... NO more snow for Miss Janey. She has had her share.

sageweb said...

Well, I grew up in the dingy skies of the pacific northwest so I hated winter too. I can't complain now. I actually love the one season we have year round.

Nice poem and thanks for sharing the background story.

yellowdog granny said...

I don't think I could live in a cold climate..I love to bitch about the Texas heat, tornados, assorted hurricanes, and no rain...but I'd rather be here than someplace where the weather was 'below'...arghgh..all i can say is the mister better be a great piece of ass..

jason said...

Oh, but I love Keats too....a prodigy indeed.

Elizabeth said...

Mr. P - Exactly! It's just unpleasant and excessive!

Miss J -I greatly admire Mr. J's taste in residence and Miss Janey's taste in husbands.

What I think is that some people are poetry people and some are fiction people (and a few people are both). Me, I love poetry but can't write it particularly well. Sigh. I also think that most schools teach poems as if they're taxidermied animals in dioramas - they're dead, you can't touch them, and they can't touch you.

Sage - One season (if it's that nice sunny one!) is all I need. Glad you liked the poem and the bio. He has the most amazingly heartbreaking life. He died when he was only 26, and yet he wrote some of the most brilliant poems in the world.

Granny - Ha! Well, since his surgery, his ass is a lot skinnier than it was..... You decide if that's good or not!

Jason - sigh. I think that in college I was actually in love with Keats. He was a total literary hottie!

a thousand shades of twilight said...

I think I block winter out for the rest of the year and, stupidly, am always miffed and surprised when it descends again in all its horribleness! (although I must say your winters sound even more horrid than mine.)

You probably don't need to hear this, but we're coming into spring here and it feels like waking up from a bad dream. I look back and think: What came over me? Why have I been behaving like a loon? Ah, it was just winter. Every person I've met who grew up in the tropics speaks of a similar yearning to yours - it must be a very strong pull.

I must admit that I am a poetry-slouch (although I do have a sister who is a poet who has exposed me to what little I know!). I was about to exclaim: "Keats! I love The Second Coming!" before realising the error of my ways. He sounds damned sexy though and I think I could well develop a crush on him too! Such a lovely poem. And your photo is JUST GORGEOUS!

I hope that winter is not too long and bleak for you! And feel free to vent anytime. I think we're all agreed: Winter doth suck. I know there are times during a heatwave when I have fantasies about sitting in front of a cosy fire listening to Leonard Cohen. But let's face it - that wears thin pretty thick when one's arse is as good as frozen off!

Elizabeth said...

I think I too live in a state of constant and ever-hopeful denial about winter. And it's always a big blow when it comes around each year. I honestly hate everything about winter. I went skiing once and it was a misery and humiliation. My husband, bless his pointed little head, is all for saving money and reducing ones carbon footprint so he spends all winter nudging the thermostat down and I then nudge it up and he then nudges it down.... (you get the point). And we don't have a working fireplace so no cosy fires or chestnuts roasting. Sigh.... I suffer so!

Re being a "poetry slouch." I've been thinking more about the poetry problem, and I decided that poetry is to words like opera is to songs. Some people get opera and some don't. I, for one, don't. I've been to operas and admire them. But I spend the entire time wishing they'd sing in English and be more like Gilbert and Sullivan. I'm the same way with ballet and modern dance - when I watch them I feel like I'm watching people exercise. Give me the most arcane conceptual poem, however, and I can still get joy from it. I think we each just have our own skill sets.

Love Yeats too. But Keats was much more sexy and his life so full of pathos. He instructed his friends to write, on his tombstone, "Here lies one whose name is writ in water."

more cowbell said...

Elizabeth, if you want to bitch about winter, feel free to email me, and I'll bitch right back immediately with my endless complaints about Seattle drizzle and darkness that everyone else is beyond tired of hearing about. I feel for you, girl. I'm dreading the rainy season ...