Her autumnal splendour has been let go. The tapestry is unravelling. The oranges deepen, the now-rare reds shock, the golds look threadbare but the browns emerge all the richer in this warm late autumn sunlight. Underfoot, on my walking paths, there are carpets of multicoloured leaves, star-lit by the ten thousand fallen momiji [Japanese maple] leaves.*
Fluffy, nodding paintbrush heads, white and luminous in the afternoon sun, was it you who painted the sky and the river-mirror so flawlessly blue today?
I’m sitting on a boulder, my eyes resting on the river, admiring the reflections of the Goddess Tatsuta** as she lounges voluptuously looking for all the world just like the hills. I’m listening in my earbuds to a lecture given a month or so ago in London by an intellectual, a global (or as he might prefer, ’cosmopolitan’) soul. I like his work, but this lecture is nothing to write home about. I enjoy the Q & A. I have to listen in different ways living in a non-native language environment, so I find myself especially admiring of the listening and interpretive skills of the audience, and also the warmth and humour evinced in Prof. Appiah’s responses.
The scrubby shore opposite does not engage my attention until out of the stillness and quiet the watery mirror at my feet briefly shatters – then mends, in a trice, -and a kingfisher flies fish-laden and free. I watch it with pleasure lunching in the dense undergrowth. Oh, little messenger, amphibious winged jewel, my heart always thrills when you break through into my awareness!
Looking downstream I see a fly-fisherman, his silvery web-like line flicks in the air, folding momentarily before falling lightly to rest on the surface of water, which, at a distance blackens, bronzes and flashes golden in the changing angle of light.
Later, walking back from an errand to the post office in my neighbourhood, hemmed by the buildings on the street, my eyes are drawn up again to the sky. To the north, hillward, clouds in shades of mauve and pink and softest grey station above and I cannot help but think with awe and gratitude: what an elegant planet we inhabit! What a universe! Arriving home, there is cause for rejoicing to the west. What had seemed a rather flat and mundane sunset as I departed had transformed into a blazing glory. Whoever knows what ignites the world of beauty and my response to it? My heart was opened, ready and grateful for it.
All this imagery, consoling and beautiful, I am recalling in my first thoughts of the morning after I hear, across the valley, and through the leaf-shorn trees, on a clear brisk morning, the 6 o’clock clang of temple bells. I have been in a state of reverie, contemplating Initial Conditions since December started and I have found that this attention is bearing sweet fruit. I don’t know where things begin exactly, but I often imagine the dark as divine incubator of the new, and in this season, this year, I am drawn to contemplating what it means to be, in the words of Donna Haraway, in this essay, a ‘compost-ist.’
*Heads up for the coming Geminid showers!
** The goddess, or princess, Tatsuta, is the Japanese personification of Autumn.