Nothing gold can stay
It's funny when a number of aspects of life come together at the same point in time. It can have the benefit - and sometimes the disadvantage - of creating meaning where before there was none. So, this week it feels like we're in the grip of Autumn - gales, sudden heavy rain, then glorious sun and golden leaves. It's all a bit of a cliche really. But after last week's blog in which I dwelt on the death of fellow writer Alan Gibbons' son, autumn takes on new meaning. I visited my own mother last weekend - her sharp, incisive, enquiring mind now reduced to a smog of confusion and no little paranoia. There is no meaning to be derived from a young death and a slow, drawn-out living, just a sense of misfortune, of the stars misaligned.
I keep on coming back to Robert Frost's autumn poem, 'Nothing Gold Can Stay' with its stark one and two syllable phrasing:
Nature's first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf's a flower,
But only so an hour.
What I love is the deliberate conflation of the hope of Spring, its golden promise, with the inevitable knowledge of a different type of gold in the turning of the leaf and the loss of its precious youth. It is no coincidence that SE Hinton used it for a key scene in 'The Outsiders' as the two teenagers on the run from broken family and gang murder, suddenly come to understand the meaning of the poem they were made to learn at school, and which is beautifully brought to conclusion in the second half of the poem:
Then leaf subsides to leaf,
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down today,
Nothing gold can stay.
Life is full of promise, of possibility, but its essence is as much in its decline as in its rise and flowering. You cannot have one without the other.
I tried to keep that in mind as I talked with my mother on the phone yesterday. She had managed to use her mobile phone to call me on my birthday on the 20th- and reminded me that I was, just, a summer baby. Some things you never forget.