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Friday, November 19, 2010

Oooh, Oooh, Oooh, what a little Auden Can Do

I've always loved the weeks between Halloween and leading up to Thanksgiving Day. Deep into autumn, we watch as mother nature deconstructs the bounty and beauty of summer and early fall. Around here, that means the last of the still-on-the-withering-vine tomatoes go slimy, the basil leaves drop off one by one, and the zinnias finally give up their magenta and orange-yellow hues, trading them in for brown.

Speaking of brown (and burnt orange, and mauve, and beige . . .), this is the time of year I get to wear all my favorite autumn colors. I head to school in one of four (yes, four) brown skirts, a long brown wool hoodie, and a pair of smart leather boots. I relish wearing, too, my orange and beige and green knit cap--something you just can't get away with most of the year cuz those colors don't look right once the Salvation Army santa starts to ringing his incessant bell.

That's why I hated being in downtown Seattle this afternoon. I accidentally walked into a retail store (on my way out of the doctor's office), and I was assaulted with Christmas music and a blinding display of glitter and bright white twinkly lights.

Don't get me wrong; I am not a grinch by any means. You might even perchance catch a glimpse of me going about my day in a Santa hat, donning a green-sparkly scarf and a red sweater festooned with rhinestone reindeer. But not on November 19.

Okay, so what does all this have to do with W. H. Auden? Well, because I'm not quite ready to bust out the "Backdoor Santa" mix or the John Fahey boxed set, I've been listening to an audio CD of Auden reading his poems.

So while I sipped Egg Nog latte on my morning commute this week (okay, I will allow Egg Nog to be poured before Black Friday), I cranked up "As I Walked Out One Evening" on the car stereo, reveling in Auden's deathless poesy--compelling, arresting, and relevant nearly a hundred years later:

Into many a green valley
Drifts the appalling snow;
Time breaks the threaded dances
And the diver's brilliant bow.

O plunge your hands in water,
Plunge them in up to the wrist,
Stare, stare in the basin
And wonder what you've missed.

Don't get me wrong--I love the deck them halls and the ho ho ho ("and presents for pretty girls!"), but I also love these mid-November days when the gloomy dark descends on Seattle at 3 pm, when the Halloween decorations have been put away, but it's not quite time for angels we have heard on high.

1 comment:

Kathleen said...

Oh, happy gloomy fall!