By Doug Jackson
We designate this season as “fall,” for what the leaves do. In church we sing Henry Alford’s “Come Ye Thankful People Come,” with its invocation of “harvest home.” (All right, we don’t anymore, but we should.) I tend to read Frost’s “After Apple Picking” a lot, and Burns’ lament at levelling a mouse’s home as he ploughs the fall field.
But the hard facts are these: Leaves don’t turn in South Texas and they don’t fall, and I am not a man of the soil who grows things. I read books and write poetry and deliver lectures and preach sermons and live in the city and forget to check my rain-gauge and am out of touch with the soil.
So along with “After Apple Picking” and “To A Mouse,” I tend to read Leo Lionni’s children’s book, Frederick. It tells the tale of a sleepy-eyed little mouse who, alone among his hard-working peers, sits in the late-summer sun and dreams instead of bustling seeds and grains into the winter retreat. He rejects the charge of laziness and insists that he gathers sunbeams and colors and words. Later, in the cramped confines of winter, he unpacks his word-hoard to warm and cheer his companions who have discovered that mouse does not live by bread alone.
So here’s my harvest, my small supply of words, ripened and rich, picked and packed, ready for your mind and heart to steam, bake, and stew: Fall, the patter of paint-chip leaves as they splatter the forest floor like a Jackson Pollock canvas. Then there’s the rich latinate autumn, with that flavorful extra “n,” and which may have overtones of the word for “increase,” the idea of harvest, and always feels in my mouth like a puff on a pipe – a meerschaum at that – full of rich Turkish tobacco. Beer – don’t say it like a commercial voice-over for a mass-produced intoxicant in a can but like a Hobbit at the Green Dragon in Bywater who hoists an honest pint. I could go on but you get the idea.
So for all the dreamers sitting on fences beside fields (or sitting on benches in urban parks besieged by asphalt strips) – stare on! The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. . .and winter is coming.
Doug Jackson is a preacher/professor/poet who after a quarter-century in the pastorate now teaches spiritual formation, pastoral ministry, and Greek for the Logsdon Seminary program at the South Texas School of Christian Studies in Corpus Christi. His collection of poetry, Nothing There is Not More, is available from Finishing Line Press.