Indeed, today is one of those classic New England days in autumn that puts the four in "Four Seasons."
I took this picture with my iPhone, standing at the end of the Mews at Whaler's Wharf in Provincetown, MA.
The Nor'easter that has been blowing up the coast continues to bring strong winds that rustle the trees and occasionally blow the clouds aside, allowing the sun to shine strongly enough and long enough on your face and hands that you think you might actually burn.
And then, before you can catch your breath, another wind will blow the clouds, hiding the sun and sending a chill through the several layers of clothing you're wearing to find a spot in the very marrow of your bones that causes you to hug yourself for warmth, mostly against the memory of the cold of last winter. Or is it, perhaps, the memory of the gone-too-soon summer sun?
The birds outside my window chat noisily from time to time. I suspect they are also complaining about the wind and talking about the change of season. Perhaps they are planning the schedule and plotting out the course they will take on their eventual flight south, to warmer climes.
There are an amazing number of people still here, although far fewer people are walking Commercial Street today than when I was here in June. Everyone is bundled up in layers of zippered hoodies with "Cape Cod" or "Provincetown" or "Old Navy" emblazoned on the front.
The sky is almost the same steel gray as the ocean. Looking out onto the water's horizon, it seems to go on into infinity. On a day like today, it's easy to see why the ancients believed the earth to be flat.
A day like today seems perfect for curling up in the chair by the fireplace in my room and reading. I've finished my book and before I go on to the next, I've been reading poetry.
At first I think of poetry as a sort of palate cleanser for my brain. You know, sort of in-between the main course of fiction. A little something to wash the palate of one story before you begin devouring another.
As I read on, I realize that this - this poetry - is the real feast.
Reading poetry is sometimes a bit like eating a steamed artichoke, pealing off the leaves one by one, dipping them into garlic butter, and pulling the dense pulp out with my teeth. It's supposed to be the appetizer, but I often find it filling enough to delay the main course. Sometimes, if I've made an especially good choice of the wine, and the bread is crisp on the outside and soft and warm on the inside, it becomes the entire, satisfying meal.
I think to myself, "Today is a day made for fireplaces and poetry and fiction."
I've stumbled onto a collection of poems by Mary Oliver - one of my favorite poets - and I am, once again as always, deeply moved by her work.
I understand she lives here, on Cape Cod, in Wellfleet, just two towns from here, around the bend of Cape Cod. Many artists and musicians and writers live there as well.
As I read through Oliver's work, I find her poem, The Journey. It's like rediscovering an old friend I hadn't seen in ages.
One day you finally knewA day like today is a wonderful day to start that journey - or take it up again, having rested a bit from the weariness of the travel.
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
their bad advice--
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
"Mend my life!"
each voice cried.
But you didn't stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do--
determined to save
the only life you could save.
There it is, to your right.
A day like today is for knowing what you can do and doing just that.
No more. No less. Unless, of course, you want to do more or feel you want to do less.
Even so, the journey has begun to save yourself by whatever means necessary.
Sometimes that involves a fireplace and a book of poetry.
Other times, it means picking up your coat and your bag and walking to places and doing those things which help you feel most alive.
On a day like today, you know what the leaves on the trees and the clouds in the skies and the birds of the air and he fish in the sea every creature under heaven knows: something is ending even as something is beginning.
It's autumn in New England. One of the four season which, like poetry, is its own event.
And, it is absolutely, positively glorious!