It happens outside, in the stillness of early morning, or as the light shifts in late afternoon and lingers in the tops of trees, that we suddenly see summer suspended. But in that moment, we also sense summer passing.
It’s September on the East End. On fair days this month, that stillness conspires with the clarity of light to let us see ourselves in the scene as mute witnesses — if we’re lucky — with no urge or responsibility to act on anything, calm enough to see things as they are, not lost in noise.
These intimations of autumn coming, or already here, bring the season’s most treasured gift — reflection — and an understanding that some things don’t change.
Even deep within a catastrophe of illness, pain and grief not seen in 100 years, and economic circumstances that are uncertain for the fortunate and ruinous for those less so, with gutter politics threatening democracy along with a sometimes deafening and inescapable media obscuring more than it reveals — yes, all of that — can be eased by the constancy and wonder of a silent afternoon with patches of light in treetops.
Beauty and mystery are just some of the qualities the cusp of autumn presents to us, if we have eyes to see. But we know — how can we not? — that this is a season about change, of school starting, new jobs launched, and elections.
We can speak of the search for tranquility, but now is when responsibility calls, and anxiety and argument arrive. Often we either can’t find the time, or are blind to experiencing a natural world, to relieve us of our conflicts, skirmishes and struggles with others and within ourselves.
It’s a season of work, study, debate and coming to grips with decisions. And with the health crisis still affecting nearly every aspect of working, studying and debating, and an election coming that is as worrying as it is welcome, our responsibility is to see clearly and act with resolution and respect for ourselves and others.
We’re blessed here, if we can encounter the emotion that comes when we’re caught off-guard by a certain quality of light in concert with stillness, and get to the heart of the matter.