Out, into the limpid gold of autumn I walked. It was my first walk in several weeks. I looked across at the Colorado foothills and saw the first turning of the leaves flickering across their faces like laughter. There won’t be many days with this kind of joy. We had snow this week; three days of fat, complacent white flakes that seemed to have moved in to stay. But then this day came along, chill, but bright, and chased them away for a while. I had to wander—deep into the mountains.
Lately, I’ve been in the haze of a rushed existence that leaves my eyes feeling they can’t focus on a thing. Too much technology, too many careening forays down the freeway. Too little sleep. I hate it when life becomes this jolting chase after something I can never catch. And then I marvel at the sense of kindling that comes over me when I walk out into the woods after deserting them for a while. An irrepressible freshness tingles in my veins, cools my face. The words of the Irish poet John O’Donohue came to me with his insistence that we humans need nature to keep the core of our souls alive. “How good,” he said in the interview The Inner Landscape of Beauty, “to wake up day after day to a world that is as much alive, if not more, than you.”
And all about me during my ramble, the earth glimmered, sang, ached with a liveness that struck life back into me. Maybe that’s what I feel so keenly is wrong with modernity, that so many of the substances that surround us are dead. Electronics, manufactured goods, house walls, carpet. We are so insulated from even the slightest touch of the breathing world. But that world is the place where our souls come alive, where we are thrust back into the rhythm of ever-advancing life, even amidst death. Of beauty in the face of decay.
Death is coming to the high fields now, cold is settling into the bones of the trees, but their spirits rise up, blazing into their leaves, unvanquished. We are a land of sun and moon in the autumn; the jeweled colors of fall are rare here, our landscape is one of serest gold, and polished silver. The aspens and cottonwoods sing out gold while the wind runs through them like water, turning over their leaves to where a silvered starlight has gathered. The trees ripple like a sunlit river, like rills in a mountain stream. The grass is plaited in wheaten loveliness, the last flowers grow pale in the chill, and I am rich with their beauty. That verse spoken by Peter came to my mind as I walked, though for me, in a slightly different version. Silver and gold, such as the world count them, have I none. But such as I have, sere fields, light like fresh butter, leaves in silver sheen, give I thee.
In the name of the Maker of it all, may your soul rise up. May your spirit walk abroad and be strengthened, and may you bear such treasures of light within yourselves.
Sarah Clarkson is the author of several books including the best-selling The Life-giving Home, which she co-authored with her mother, Sally Clarkson. Sarah is currently studying literature at Oxford University where she's not only a brilliant thinker and writer, but is also the president of the C. S. Lewis Society.