Center sought

Greetings here at Samhain, my friends. This is the point on the wheel where centripetal forces pull us down into the cool, damp soil. We seek something this season, it seems, something in the rising darkness.

Since last month, the forest’s canopy turned from crimson to copper to dull bronze, and now has fallen. Leaves collect in skittering drifts in the lee of things. Bright copper, stripped of its summer insulation, goes from brilliant to drab in the autumn rain. But copper, so the metallurgists tell us, can be recycled an infinite number of times without loss; the canopy falls and disintegrates, but rises again early summer none the worse for the descent. A thin patina of verdigris covers the leaves, but soon enough falls away itself before the cycle repeats.

Centripetal is a relatively recent coinage, cast from the Latin for center and seeking. But petal also slips in, bearing its associations with thin plates or leaves, with lotus and pentacle. Relating, drawing, blooming; these forces at the threshold of winter pull us down into the soil, but also perhaps beyond toward some cavernous space.

Rain falls from a heavy sky on the trees, whose leaves have turned a dull gold, still warm against the cold and damp.

Harmonie de pluie, bois de Ville-d'Avray by Alphonse Osbert, 1891

I walked recently at sunset out onto the dunes. In the lee of the moraine, where the sweeping winds are buffered by the shoulder of that giant mineral body, I stopped to look at a lone cottonwood still holding onto a last few quietly clattering leaves. In the tenth book of the Metamorphoses, Ovid describes Venus’ temple in Cyprus:

Right in its centre there gleams a tree
with foliage of yellow and branches rustling with
yellow gold.1

I left the cottonwood and walked to the brink of the moraine above Lake Michigan where the sky was lit a dense and brilliant gradient by the sinking sun. Light like this, thick with charged particles, viscous, slows the wave of time. As the sun touched the water’s surface it melted and split into two flattened forms. Just above, another light appeared. Venus floated there in the glow for a moment before disappearing beneath the water herself. Higher to the south, the moon stood with stout horns held askance, offered perhaps as a crown to follow the goddess. Gold, copper, silver; then the impossible celestial cavern of night.

There we are. Thanks for reading this brief October installment of Polylith. November may not be the most easygoing of months here on the peninsula, despite its ascetic charms, but it does pull us generously along toward an inner place we must reach before winter. Until next month, my friends. Take care.

  1. From David Raeburn’s 2004 translation.