I have never paid much attention to my birthday, but one opinion I always had about it was that I was glad it was in spring. It always seemed so appropriate that, even as a child, as I felt myself open to the returned freedom of sun and mild breezes, intoxicated with air filled with the scent and knowledge of new life, I would also celebrate my own entrance to this existence. Even now, my first incliniation is to take off my shoes and run through the mud and leaves, absorbing the new year of life directly into the soles of my feet, letting it spread through my body and awaken me for a new year.
This year I’ll pay more attention to my birthday than usual, since I’m turning 50 and it seems respectful to my fulfillment of a half-century of life, my personal achievements, and all the memories this half-century bears.
This is not a stopping point, an end or a beginning, it is but a moment in the great cycle of our own lives.
Seasons meld from one to another and are marked, not at the equinox and solstice but halfway between, in the quiet time when there are no other celebrations; but the sensitive person can sense the change, and so I have noticed my own gradual melding from one age of my life, one set of ideas choices to another.
Five years ago I visited the trail on the Feast of Lammas, August 2, when summer gently gives over to autumn, growth turns to ripening, the natural world begins to settle itself in for harvest and rest in the dark of winter. Though I love spring and its awakening, this time of seasons fills me with both an overwhelming passion at the flush of life, and an absolute pathos at the knowledge of loss that fills the future that I am often brought to tears for no apparent reason, my chest tight with emotion. There is no turning back.
In that particular year, for some reason, I saw myself finally balanced between my youth and my age, the tipping point or pinnacle, having reached the flush of my own maturity and now facing, hopefully, a long, slow decline. No, I wasn’t ready for death; it had taken me 45 years to get there, and if I was at the center of my life I would theoretically have another 45, and that was a happy thought. My mother just passed at the age of 85; if I live five years beyond her span, I’ll have achieved a betterment for my own generation.
So on that day five years ago, on that trail, I stopped, astonished at the realization, let the physical sensations fill me and turn all the whirling emotions to a creative gesture, in this case, a poem, celebrating the cycles of life, and the cycle of my own life reaching absolute maturity. Five years later, I’m enjoying my second half, only a little worse for the wear.
We are, each of us, a work in progress.
by Bernadette E. Kazmarski
At a bend in the trail,
The scent of wild apples greets me.
A tree abandoned from an old orchard
Or sprung up on its own from old stock, wild and uncultivated,
Heavy with small round burnished apples.
The late summer heat releases their scent,
Sweet and tart, that the world may know they have reached their prime;
The wild perfume of the coming season.
From another tree one single leaf lets go
And falls, papery, dry and curled, slipping through branches
Clattering to the summer-hardened clay of the trail,
Loud in the silent heat of the August afternoon.
Winter lost her grip, and, one by one,
The wildflowers of spring began to bloom,
Which, in their turn, faded into the shadows of the dense summer woods.
Now summer is losing her strength,
Autumn is thinning the woods
And bearing her own flowers and fruits,
Changing the palette of the landscape
With bright summer greens turning gold,
Deep rich shadows fading hazy blue.
Soon autumn will blaze along the trail,
And songbirds will move their chorus south.
Already winter has touched my hair,
And the smell of wild apples is in the air.
This was the topic of my 2009 poetry reading at Andrew Carnegie Free Library & Music Hall, Change of Season. Click the link to read more poetry and see more art and photos.
Poem “Wild Apples” by Bernadette E. Kazmarski © 2007, may not be reproduced in any way without express written permission of the author. Links to this blog are fine.