This week I am pleased to share a post written by my wife Linda Forman. Linda co-founded John Adams Academies with me. She was an active contributor to the John Adams Academy vision, mission and core values. She has been the mentor to me and many others in my own classical journey. She has motivated our own children and youth in their love of learning. Linda was classically educated and loves classical literature, music and art. She is a creator of beauty. When Linda creates something, it is done with elegance, style and grace. The following post is a clear example of those qualities.
In this post Linda uses the literary form of poetry to aid her in the expression of her emotions. William Wordsworth said that “poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquility.”
I hope that you will allow yourself to fall into the world that is painted for you in this post. Poetry is an essential part of a classical education and Linda weaves it beautifully into her writing to invite you in and fully experience her gratitude.
Sincerely, Dean Forman
Gratitude in Autumn
Walking down my garden’s flagstone path I breathe in autumn. Summer’s sun and unrelenting heat have made way for an abundant display of fall blooms. Miniature cyclones stir up dried leaves, rifling them like pages in a book. The evenings are cool and the mornings crisp and there is an end to daily watering and weeding.
Many meet fall with a sense of loss over what was in the rebirth of spring and the warmth of summer. But, for me, autumn is a celebration of abundance and thanksgiving. Abundance in harvest…the late apples yet to be picked, a traditional time to gather with family, to bake and share meals, and to count blessings. I am grateful.
My feelings and my gratitude are not single to me. The great authors and poets have expressed these same emotions of awe and appreciation so much better than I ever could. In the reading I find connection and know that I am not alone in my amazement.
Samuel Butler wrote: “Autumn is the mellower season, and what we lose in flowers we more than gain in fruits.”
Emily Dickinson wrote of her Autumn Garden abundance,
The Products of my Farm are these Sufficient for my Own And here and there a Benefit Unto a Neighbor’s Bin. With us, ‘tis Harvest all the Year For when the Frosts begin We just reverse the Zodiac And fetch the Acres in –
She also wrote in her journals, alluding to the mental and physical solace of the garden, “There is not yet Frost, and Vinnie’s Garden from the door looks like a Pond, with Sunset on it. Bathing in that heals her. How simple is Bethesda!” Placing myself within her language I, too, am healed.
In Edna St. Vincent Millay’s fourteen-line sonnet she tries to bring the elements of the world closer to her. She is full of emotions. The world is too beautiful.
God’s World O world, I cannot hold thee close enough! Thy winds, thy wide grey skies! Thy mists, that roll and rise! Thy woods, this autumn day, that ache and sag And all but cry with colour! That gaunt crag To crush! To lift the lean of that black bluff! World, World, I cannot get thee close enough! Long have I known a glory in it all, But never knew I this; Here such a passion is As stretcheth me apart,—Lord, I do fear Thou'st made the world too beautiful this year; My soul is all but out of me,—let fall No burning leaf; prithee, let no bird call
Paul Laurence Dunbar expresses my wonder but also my joy and gratitude in autumn.
Merry Autumn It’s all a farce,—these tales they tell About the breezes sighing, And moans astir o’er field and dell, Because the year is dying. Such principles are most absurd,— I care not who first taught ’em; There’s nothing known to beast or bird To make a solemn autumn. In solemn times, when grief holds sway With countenance distressing, You’ll note the more of black and gray Will then be used in dressing. Now purple tints are all around; The sky is blue and mellow; And e’en the grasses turn the ground From modest green to yellow. The seed burrs all with laughter crack On featherweed and jimson; And leaves that should be dressed in black Are all decked out in crimson. A butterfly goes winging by; A singing bird comes after; And Nature, all from earth to sky, Is bubbling o’er with laughter. The ripples wimple on the rills, Like sparkling little lasses; The sunlight runs along the hills, And laughs among the grasses. The earth is just so full of fun It really can’t contain it; And streams of mirth so freely run The heavens seem to rain it. Don’t talk to me of solemn days In autumn’s time of splendor, Because the sun shows fewer rays, And these grow slant and slender. Why, it’s the climax of the year,— The highest time of living!— Till naturally its bursting cheer Just melts into thanksgiving.
In this season of beauty, I walk in my garden with gratitude, a spirit of thanksgiving that is becoming to man and will bless my life with abundance, all the while knowing that I am quite unworthy of it all. Gratitude this deep humbles me yet lifts and sustains me, independent of my circumstances. It is a way of living and thinking that can be cultivated and change the way I experience life and the world. My garden…it has taught me gratitude, which has brought me joy.
“Oh Lord, who lends me life, lend me a heart replete with thankfulness.”