Love of Reading “White Autumn” Poem of Woman’s Life Around a Simple Reading Lamp (Sept. 2023)

Susan’s Thursday morning note September 28, 2023

Love for reading – the seasons of a woman’s entire life as she read in the evenings – observed by the lamp in her room.

Good morning.  Silence of the moment as my morning sun and angel of dawn peer together through my curtains.  Faithful.  Encouraging me to enter this day.  The song of cicadas ended, but their music rings clearly in my mind.  Did every little animal friend from bunny to spider all sleep in this morning?  Complete stillness.  Where are they all sleeping?  Do they start with a quiet song in their nests?  Their mothers humming to help them awake?  I know within a few feet are squirrels, cicadas, spiders, frogs, birds, worms, and little fairies.  I wish I could see into each of their worlds and watch them all enter the backdrop of my scene called life.

I look up as I type.  Backdrops to my scene in life differing from yours.  Props others may not notice in each of our scenes. A specific lamp.  Table.  Tree. Cornfield.  Hill.  Rose bush.  Sunflower.  Each part of different scenes of our life.   And next to any of these backdrops we can open the covers of any book to enter any scene we choose.  And within these scenes to go to any moment they help us replay in our minds of our own lives. I reread a poem this morning of a woman whose entire life story was observed by the lamp in her room.  A nostalgic poem.  The white light of her candle under the lampshade.  Seasons of her life as she loved books with her lamp at the end of each day.  The lamp at it’s place for each scene of her life.  Such a beautiful poem that immediately found a place in my soul.   

White Autumn by Robert Morgan

She had always loved to read, even
in childhood during the Confederate War,
and built the habit later of staying up
by the oil lamp near the fireplace after
husband and children slept, the scrub-work done.

She fed the addiction in the hard years
of Reconstruction and even after
her husband died and she was forced
to provide and be sole foreman of the place.

While her only son fought in France
it was this second life, by the open window
in warm months when the pines on the hill
seemed to talk to the creek, or katydids
lined-out their hymns in the trees beyond the barn,
or by the familiar of fire in winter,
that sustained her.  she and her daughters
later forgot the time, the exact date,
if there was such a day, she made her decision.

But after the children could cook
and garden and milk and bring in a little
by housecleaning for the rich in Flat Rock,
and the son returned from overseas
wounded but still able and married a war widow,
and when she had found just the right chair,
a rocker joined by a man over on Willow
from rubbed hickory, with cane seat and back,
and arms wide enough to rest her everlasting cup
of coffee on, or a heavy book,
she knew she had come to her place and would stay.

And from that day, if it was one time and not
a gradual recognition, she never crossed a threshold
or ventured from that special seat of rightness,
of presence and pleasure, except to be helped to bed
in the hours before dawn for a little nap.

That chair – every Christmas someone gave her a bright
cushion to break in – was the site on which she bathed
in a warm river of books and black coffee,
varieties of candy and cakes kept in a low cupboard
at hand.  The cats passed through her lap and legs
and through the rungs of her seat.  The tons of
firewood came in cold and left as light, smoke, ash.
She rode that upright cradle to sleep
and through many long visits with tiers of family,
kissing the babies like different kinds of fruit.

Always hiding the clay pipe in her cabinet
when company appeared.  She chaired decisions
to keep the land and refused welfare.
On that creaking throne she ruled a tiny kingdom
through war, death of kin.  Even on the night she did
stop breathing, near a hundred, no one knew
exactly when, but found the lamp still on,
the romance open to a new chapter,
and the sun just appearing at her elbow.                      
Thank you for letting me enter your Thursday morning. Thank you for coming into our store for your gifts and your books.  A place you can leave your reality behind for a few minutes.  Don’t let life overwhelm you.  Words from Streams in the Desert, “I implore you not to give into despair, it constricts your soul...”  Look to the heavens.  A  peace that you will not understand is promised.  For you.  For me.  Stop and appreciate a sunflower this week.  Look into eyes.  Notice the moment of dawn.  Hear the cicadas singing their hearts out for you.  Tonight we will have the chance to write again moments from today.  Will any be worthy of inscribing in stone?  Time.  Constantly moving.  Will we be able to stop in our minds specific moments, capturing the beauty of this gift.  This gift of this moment of our scenes in the play called Life.  Susan

Works Cited:

Keillor, Garrison.  
Good Poems for Hard Times: Selected and Introduced by Garrison Keillor.  New York.  Penguin Books.  2005.

Latin for this week:
legendo delector – I love to read.
legere – to read
Quae legis es – You are what you read