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Friday, October 26, 2012

Autumn Restlessness


Sun clears top of woods on Thursday morning

Picking up books at random and slowly turning pages and reading a few lines here and there, I often come upon thoughts and ideas it would never have occurred to me to search out, either in print or online. It’s pure serendipity. Similarly, I remember happening upon many unexpected treasures in the old days of the physical card catalog at my public library. And then, in graduate school, there was the excitement of roaming the stacks!

On what may have been the last of our summer-like autumn days this year, I paced restlessly in my empty bookstore, envying people at home raking leaves or those driving the roads, going--going anywhere! I wanted to be out in the woods, down on the beach, on a road—heading north, south, east, or west, but moving!

Canada geese are on the move. Every morning flocks take to the air from their overnight resting places and honk and wing overhead in southward Vs and strings. Fishery-hatched salmon, obedient to blind instinct, thrash their way up streams they never came down as young fish. Retirees are closing up their Michigan homes and packing for winters in Florida or Arizona or California or Mexico.

Our human ancestors did not live in settled communities until they started gardening and farming, and peoples who do not live by agriculture and industry still today move with the seasons. They move livestock herds according to pasture, follow the rains. They follow game or whatever. Just as “to every thing there is a season,” for many dwellers on earth, “to every season there is a place.”

When I am restless in spring and longing for the open road, it is Chaucer’s words in the Prologue to his Canterbury Tales come to my mind. In autumn, it is a chapter from Wind in the Willows, “Wayfarers All.”

The sun shone. The wind blew. With the bookstore open and leaves blowing in from the sidewalk, I paced like the old timber wolf years ago in the zoo in Traverse City. What name to give this feeling?

The Bluebird Effect: Uncommon Bonds with Common Birds, a truly lovely book by Julie Zickefoose, contains many stories of birds the author has known over the years. My eye is most drawn to the quick pencil sketches in this book. I looked at finished watercolor paintings, too, and read bits of stories, but I was still, you see, too restless to sit with the book and start at the beginning. It wasn’t that kind of day. And then I came upon the following gem: Zugunruhe, migratory restlessness! That’s it!

Poet Teresa Scollon comes on Saturday!
My nomadic ancestors are having a genetic effect on my spirit. The gypsy in my soul tugs at the farmer in my soul. We are all tethered in place this autumn, but we feel the tug. Luckily, we have poetry for comfort.



4 comments:

Dawn said...

I feel that tug so often...the wish to be anywhere but where I am. I've always had that inside me...but know from experience that 'somewhere else' is not always better than 'where you are.' Still I think it's the getting there that is the most fun...being on the road, regardless of where the road is going. Maybe you can get a few days off in a row and hit the road to somewhere else for a short time.

P. J. Grath said...

I will have an overnight soon in Kalamazoo, seeing my mother and sisters and my son and his wife. Other than that, I think I'll have to "snap out of it," like the River Rat in WITW, and satisfy my wanderlust with travel books and memoirs and novels set in distant lands. I can do that. But it's good to know someone understands, Dawn.

Gerry said...

So I've been sitting here staring into space thinking about this and deciding that I am an "everything to its season" person rather than an "every season to its place" person. Probably.

Safe and lovely trip to Kalamazoo.

P. J. Grath said...

Thanks, Gerry. You've got me to rethinking the question again, and I guess I would not want to be tied down to one specific place for each corresponding season. No, it's more that there are certain seasons I'd like to be freer to roam.