Saturday, November 15, 2014

The autumn leaves of 2014

"That country where it is always turning late in the year. That country where the hills are fog and the rivers are mist; where noons go quickly, dusks and twilights linger, and midnights stay. That country composed in the main of cellars, sub-cellars, coal-bins, closests, attics, and pantries faced away from the sun. Tht country whose people are autumn people, thinking only autumn thoughts. Where people passing at night on the empty walks sound like rain."
~ Ray Bradbury

Autumn came late to New York City this year, and perhaps because of the mild summer, it came strange. Trees that are normally mousy, like the oaks that generally turn brown, were on fire. The basswoods, which are usually my favorites, where monochromatic. So few leaves were on the ground that I asked my husband to come with me to grab a few from the trees.
Basswood leaves most years.

Basswood leaves this year.


"At no other time (than autumn) does the earth let itself be inhaled in one smell, the ripe earth; in a smell that is in no way inferior to the smell of the sea, bitter where it borders on taste, and more honeysweet where you feel it touching the first sounds. Containing depth within itself, darkness, something of the grave almost."
~ Rainer Maria Rilke

Fortunately, the maples and oaks took charge.
This is a maple.

This year's oak leaves.

We also had some leaves that were solid yellow and others that were vivid green.

A mixed bag of colors.

Meanwhile, in Toronto, autumn seems more normal. My social media friend Tiina Komulainen is a talented photographer. This is a photo she took of leaves in water on the far side of the Canadian border.
Photo by Tiina Komulainen.

"No spring nor summer beauty hath such grace as I have seen in one autumnal face."
~ John Donne

Belatedly posting links to my earlier autumn leaf blogs:

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Music for melancholy people

to a young child
"Starry Night over the Rhone" by Vincent Van Gogh

Margaret, are you grieving
Over Goldengrove unleaving?
Leaves like the things of man, you
With your fresh thoughts care for, can you?
Ah! as the heart grows older
It will come to such sights colder
By and by, nor spare a sigh
Though worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie;
And yet you will weep and know why.
Now no matter, child, the name:
Sorrow's springs are the same.
Nor mouth had, no nor mind, expressed
What heart heard of, ghost guessed:
It is the blight man was born for,
It is Margaret you mourn for.

"Spring and Fall"
by Gerard Manley Hopkins

I don't know if this extends beyond Margaret and me, but autumn — my favorite season — sometimes puts me in a melancholy mood. I know the mood has arrived by the songs that start running through my head.

Paul Simon's 1973 song "American Tune" came to mind this morning. It takes me back to the disillusionment of the early 1970s. I remember listing to it with my mother. She was recently out of a terrible second marriage and I was fresh out of Sixties dreams and working as a writer. This was the era of Watergate, when revelations about the misdeeds of President Nixon filled the headlines. Somehow, probably because it's so lovely, it's long been one of my favorite songs.

Another song that reminds me of autumn is Joni Mitchell's "Urge for Going." Tom Rush's version is the one I heard first, and it's still my favorite.

And then there is the classic "Autumn Leaves." Many great singers have sung it, but for the past few years my favorite version has been the one recorded by the late Eva Cassidy.

This last song, "Shenandoah," came out of a distant memory. I've never been to the Shenandoah Valley, so I don't have any direct connection with it. But somehow, the ache for the past is there just like Margaret's mourning.

"You expected to be sad in the fall. Part of you died each year when the leaves fell from the trees and their branches were bare agains the wind and the cold, wintry light. But you knew there would always be the spring, as you knew the river would flow again after it was frozen. When the cold rains kept on and killed the spring, it was as though a young person died for no reason."
~ Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast

Late addition for returning readers

My friend Susan Champlin, author of the excellent blog What Would Katherine Hepburn Do? (WWKHD), told me about Bruce Springsteen's version of "Shenandoah." I've fallen in love with it. It is the "Grapes of Wrath" rendition. Give it a listen.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Remembering Patty

"Hiya sweetheart!"
~ Patricia Marie Hush

Patty (at left) with sisters Barbara and Joan.
My beloved oldest sister Patty was born on this day in 1931. Her bright light left us on November 23, 2013. My other sisters, along with my nieces and nephews and friends who knew her, put our heads together to share memories of Patty — photos of her, the music she loved, the things she used to say.

My niece Heather summed up the Patty effect well: "She was such a blessing to us all. Anyone who spent any amount of time with her left more compassionate and light-hearted. She was one of the best gifts/life lessons we could have received as children."

Patty was intellectually disabled — mentally retarded, as we used to say before "retarded" became a shaming word. She never learned to read or write. But she was brilliant about people. Her social skills were better than mine will ever be. She was also the family's memory keeper. She forgot nothing, but forgave a lot. She went through some extremely hard times in her life, but her joyous spirit bounced back and became a source of buoyancy to us all.

Let's start with a couple of the songs she loved. "Down by the Old Mill Stream" is a song my dad was known to sing and pantomime to at the dinner table. Patty always chimed in.

This was another favorite — Tex Beneke's version of "Five Minutes More."

My niece Hilary remembered how much Patty adored babies — and here's photographic proof. She would often ask my mom when she would get married and have a baby. The knowledge that it wasn't likely to happen broke her heart.

Another niece, Deirdre, was the first to point out "Hiya sweetheart!" — Patty's oh-so cheerful greeting. It never failed to put a smile on the face of whoever entered the room.

Hilary also remembered the way Patty would inevitably shout out "Happy Christmas!" during a quiet moment at Christmas Mass. She adored Christmases and birthdays. I vividly remember her during my first Christmases on the planet; Patty would sit in a chair and make a fuss over every gift she received.

Even this shower cap — a stocking gift. On Patty's lap you can see one of the Christmas stockings that my Aunt Ella made for all of us.

Whatever Patty said, she meant it. My friend Dawn remembers a night when she slept over at my family's house and woke to find Patty touching her long blond hair saying "So beautiful." She said those words, coming from Patty, meant more to her than all the praise guys gave her (she was gorgeous) because she knew it was sincere.

A few more photos:

Patty with my mom and our dog Gay at our house on Dune Road.
Patty on Easter with our cousin Tommy and sisters Terry, Barbara and me.

Patty flanked by sisters Betsy and Terry in 2009.

Finally, two of my all-time favorite photos, which capture one of the things I miss most: Patty's big, bright smile.