John Graves: On Enjoying the Fall

Fall’s first days bring a cool, crisp sheen to the morning air no longer warm with humidity. The geese have arrived, snow birds en route to their winter gardens. Storms fill the afternoon air with rain and strong breezes. They roll on, leaving the wet boughs dripping in a lessening sunshine. Turkeys wander the fields, hawks and buzzards roam the skies, each seeking sustenance. Turkeys from the seeds, raptors from the scurrying small forest beasts, the rotting road kill hulks. Meals on claws the former; garbage men of the swamps the latter.

Humans go about their business with carefree esprit—or so they hang upon their sleeves. Well-being permeates most people’s views. Good jobs, safe streets, money in the bank—and the markets—make most more than reasonably happy.

Yet, does a deeper discontent lie fracturing just beneath the surface? Does the fetid swamp hide ranker ambition? Are we desperately searching for New Babylon? Does the future approach us with death and destruction?

I am no fortune teller. The future is as opaque as the teal dark swamp water upon which we kayak this morning. The ‘gaters and snakes and spiders are no threat. They are more interesting allusions to the primitive frontier so close, yet so far away. We enter and depart the swamp at will, for pleasure, activity and learned skill. We pose no threat to them, so are ignored; they pose no threat to us, so we wander observant upon these tannin dark seas.

Are we facing threats existential, climactic, religious? Listen to many. Many agree that we are in the final days. As Eliot opens Journey of the Maji:

A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of the year…
Do we have a cold coming? Or a warmer one? Shall we
…come down to a temperate valley…
three trees on the low sky?

Or as Yeats writes, shall things fall apart?

What rough beast, its hour come round at last, slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

The noisy political season is upon us. The Children’s Crusade has sailed across the Atlantic in a carbon fiber yacht. Prophets and Prophetesses of doom seek to lead us…where? Are we penguins seeking food for our young, walking hundreds of miles across frozen tundra? Or are we lemmings following a maddening crowd?

Some small historical perspective. In the 1830s a religious frenzy gripped the emerging nation of these united states. Tents and churches gospelled the 2nd Coming. In the 1870s, the Grange, the Women’s Christian Temperance Movement, and the Knights of Labor each emerged to show citizens The Way. Teddy Roosevelt and his younger cousin Franklin offered similar paeans to righteousness, much as Reagan offered in the 1980s.

Seems we need leadership. Appears we are a ruthless, aggressive, angry politic bent upon death and destruction and disharmony. We require redemption—at any cost. Just ask the current crop of naysayers and decency advocates. The visors and placards shout their truths from righteous foreheads and raised fists on Main Street, on Broadway, from London, from San Francisco. MAGA to Antifa.

We need healing! We have sinned and need forgiveness! Penance is strict and painful—but we deserve it. We must suffer to be reborn.

Here I stand, a lone wolf distant from the maddening crowd, seeing madness in these crowded halls of justice. Have we no honor? Have we no self-worth? Are we to be led by the virtuistas, the blameless minions, the children of our newest Crusade?

Whether MAGA, Antifa or AGW (anthropogenic global warming), I disagree with each. Neither the twitteratae nor the senseless children, no politician nor scientist has all the answers. The problems we do face each have solutions—often by ignoring them. If they deserve our attention, then we shall solve them by laborious application of hard work, rigorous thinking, and the applied art of science.

How many politicians have been correct in our lifetimes? Kennedy? Johnson? Nixon? Carter? Reagan? The Clintons? The Bushes? Mr. T?

How many scientists have led humanity astray over the centuries? Copernicus with his magic rings? Newton transmuting gold? Lysenko killing millions? Ehrlich predicting death and starvation?

How many small men and women have worked, steadfast and honest, quietly creating the potential for the New World? The women of the Apollo Project? Herman Borlaug? All the workers on all the assemblies and construction sites and factories and tech centers and hospitals and dangerous streets: these are my heroes and heroines.

These were our parents: struggling as children during the Great Depression, fighting and building and dying during the War, working and saving and giving birth to each of us. Teaching us the values of self-restraint. Of honor. Of personal sacrifice. Of helping our neighbors. Of saving and tithing and living within our means.

These are my heroes. If we but stand in their shadows and throw light upon the ever decreasing darkness, we shall honor them. If we help just one immigrant, just one street survivor, just one child fearful of the night – then we have succeeded in our lesson. If we give hope to but one small human soon to be born, we are blessed.

So go forth with your head held high, knowing you have much to do, but far more to be thankful for, grateful for, blessed by. We offer a light upon the hill. We need no guidance from preachers or politicians. We need no Party or hierarchy. We need no intelligent leadership pulling us up from middle class quagmires. We are not deplorable, forgotten, heathen, tribal outcasts seeking salvation from our Betters.

We are our own betters. We who have lived within our means, who have always given back to our community, who are smart enough to know that those who tell us they are smarter are the greater fools.

So to the Gretas and Donalds, the Elizabeths and Als, go take a long walk and cool down.

Enjoy these bitter, bright, wet, boggy days of fall.

The winter is coming…

Eat wisely. Sleep well. Love with Abandon!

Enjoy these bitter, bright, wet, boggy days of fall. The winter is coming… Eat wisely. Sleep well. Love with Abandon! - John Graves Click To Tweet

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John Graves on Enjoying the Fall: Enjoy these bitter, bright, wet, boggy days of fall. The winter is coming… Eat wisely. Sleep well. Love with Abandon!

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