That time of year thou mayst in me beholdWhen yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hangUpon those boughs which shake against the cold,Bare ruin’d choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.In me thou see’st the twilight of such dayAs after sunset fadeth in the west,Which by and by black night doth take away,Death’s second self, that seals up all in rest.In me thou see’st the glowing of such fireThat on the ashes of his youth doth lie,As the death-bed whereon it must expire,Consum’d with that which it was nourish’d by.This thou perceiv’st, which makes thy love more strong,To love that well which thou must leave ere long.
I think of this poem (Shakespeare’s Sonnet 73) at the start of every fall. I know it’s fall when the leaves start swirling in little eddies on the sidewalk. I’m pretty sure the leaves only do that here in Chicago. The wind is more shapely here.
I think of it because every fall there is something in me that is dying, some false sense of self or others, some faulty perspective, and other things going dormant.
Yellow leaves, or none, or few.
Maybe we’re all feeling a little thin right now, like the upcoming onslaught of winter (or whatever else is ahead) is too powerful. The leaves are yellow, not living, about to fall off. Or they might be all gone, leaving no protection, no sign of life. Or maybe we’ve still got a few, just hanging on and quivering as the wind gets colder.
In me, I’m seeing the twilight of a day, my years in college.
As the yellow leaves fall and swirl in the pavement, I think of what I’ll do when the twilight ends and night begins to signal a new day.
Shakespeare got it – it’s hard to love something well when you know you have to leave it soon. It’s why we check out during the last ten minutes of a long lecture, only to come back for the last line and the dismissal. It’s why when you only have 12 weeks left of school you’re hesitant to make new friends or invest in newer friendships.
It doesn’t seem worth it to pour in and leave.
It’s why I wonder if I should have taken a lighter course load, to go more gently.
But Shakespeare reminds me that loving well when someone’s about to leave can be meaningful. And perhaps the leaver can make it more so.
This is a struggle always. Always. How to stay where you are and love it well and love them well and stay.
I’ll let the leaves remind me to stay and hope Shakespeare would be proud.