It’s time to come inside.  Time to put the gardens to bed and stow the flower pots and outdoor furniture away. I’ve already disassembled the tomato supports (with dozens of green laggards still  clinging to the vines) and harvested the last of the arugula and lettuce. Except for the oaks and beech trees, most of the leaves have fallen, and the mountain — hidden for so many months behind the foliage — emerges from the mist, an enormous ship coming into port for the winter.

We usually wait until the last minute to take down the hammock. Strung between two old trees at the edge of our upper field,  it’s a reminder of the best of summer: warmth, the smell of freshly mown grass, the bliss of reading all one weekday afternoon in the dappled shade.  But the days have grown so much shorter now.  There’s snow in the forecast.  It’s time to come inside, though this year that’s so much harder to face than in years past.

Here’s a poem by Robert Frost on the subject which, though written very early in his career, I think exemplifies his full range of subtle, lyrical gifts and ironic power, including how one word in the last line alters and deepens the meaning of the entire poem.



Robert Frost

Out through the fields and the woods
  And over the walls I have wended;
I have climbed the hills of view
  And looked at the world, and descended;
I have come by the highway home,
  And lo, it is ended.

The leaves are all dead on the ground,
  Save those that the oak is keeping
To ravel them one by one
  And let them go scraping and creeping
Out over the crusted snow,
  When others are sleeping.

And the dead leaves lie huddled and still,
   No longer blown hither and thither;
The last lone aster is gone;
  The flowers of the witch hazel wither;
The heart is still aching to seek,
  But the feet question ‘Whither?’

Ah, when to the heart of man
  Was it ever less than a treason
To go with the drift of things,
  To yield with a grace to reason,
And bow and accept the end
  Of a love or a season?

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18 Responses to Reluctance

  1. Iris Maitland says:

    Dear Liza
    I love this poem!
    Ron and I have spent a good deal of the Autumn driving around the Berkshires, getting out of the car, walking and enjoying the Majestic views of Berkshire County. It is a luxury that this pandemic afforded.
    Sending all good wishes to you and Bill.

    • Liza says:

      We drive around a lot, too, taking the back roads through some of the most beautiful and restful vistas in the country, I think. Yes, it is such a luxury. Thanks for writing, Iris!

  2. Cheryl Sullivan says:

    How lovely. This time of year is always bittesweet but I love autumn .It is my favoite season for long walks here in Maine…not too hot, not too cold. So much beauty.

  3. Gwen Rhodes says:

    oh my I have always loved his poetry…thank you for sharing this…it did bring tears to my eyes.
    love you Liza.

  4. Susan Fisher says:

    It has been a gorgeous fall in the Berkshires, and it seemed to stay beautiful longer than I remember. And then snow, enough to create its own beauty. But I could live without the abrupt change to 23 degrees. The Frost poem is wonderful, and a new one fir me. Love your posts.

  5. Patricia Aakre says:

    I wonder how old Robert Frost was when he wrote this? I love his poems about autumn, and the change of seasons. I had no idea that witch hazel flowered in autumn. The only flowers I know are in the early spring, when they are chartreuse-green. Does it have a second flowering with different colors at the end of its cycle?

    • Liza says:

      It’s interesting that you noticed the witch hazel reference; it bothered me, too. He’s such a stickler for accuracy in general, but my witch hazel flowers die back by mid-April — with no other flowering. Perhaps he knew of a different variety in Vermont, or maybe he just liked the alliteration of “the flowers of the witch hazel wither,” which, you have to admit, is pretty nice.

  6. Beverly says:

    A very bittersweet post, but beautiful writing as always— yours but the pier, too, we do get an extra hour of sleep tonight!

  7. Phyllis says:

    Lovely. Thanks Liza. Bundle up! Miss you and Bill.

  8. Molly says:

    Love this. I remember this time in the Berkshires so well and miss our girls/cousins weekends.

  9. Kate says:

    Just beautiful Liza and so sad.
    Saying goodbye to summer always feels heartbreaking but this year especially
    as it didn’t feel like we ever fully arrived there.
    The photo of the hammock filled with leaves brought tears to my eyes,.
    It’s one of the girls favorite spots.
    Thank you for such a moving post and for sharing this poem.

    • Liza says:

      Thanks, Kate. One of my favorite memories is swinging in the hammock with the girls and having it magically turn into a boat and then a flying carpet. We’ve been on so many adventures together!

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