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Autumn Report on a Summer Morning

Photo - Autumn Sun and Leaves by Adam Hillliker (via Creative Commons)

Today I as I reflected life through poem by Michael O’Siadhail, I saw a snapshot of my own life–both the joy and the ache. In “Autumn Report” O’Siadhail describes the haze of autumn’s tilted sun casting light across his path and life. A superscript above the poem quotes from Dante’s Comedy, “Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita” (in the middle of the road in my life).

This superscript casts its own light across the glory of this “summer’s afterthought.” As I read, I realize O’Siadhail is catching a glimpse of his own momentary existence. As I as read on, I realize he is catching a glimpse of all our momentary existences.
He is writing from a place that sounds insignificant at first,

…- so propped in this sidestreet
doorway, a gap on the pavement between two vans
affords a patio where sunlight swabs our regrets,

In this sun-captured moment, he “snatch(es) the tenor of the whole.” From one tiny spot, in one fleeting moment, he beholds the whole of life and glory of being alive. And from this one place, he offers a brief account of his life. He writes,
I tender friends and shareholders an interim report:

In this place of seeming insignificance, O’Siadhail begins with praise, with rejoicing, with proclamation of good news. For even in the fading summer of his life, he has been blessed to live. Makes me think of something GK Chesterton once wrote, “Merely to exist for a moment, and see a white patch of daylight on a gray wall, ought to be an answer to all the pessimism of the world.” From his tiny, unnoticed spot in the universe, O’Siadhail rejoices in the glory that surrounds him.

Even in this fall, wholehearted life reverberates
some almighty gaiety, invites me to adore
the immense integrity; wines my veins until
I’m sure my frame will warp under such
exuberance. I’ve never felt so near the centre
of all that is.

O’Siadhail’s proclaims that the glory of this being aliveness “wines my veins.” He is drunk with the joy of life bursting forth within and around him. Once again I turn to Chesterton for commentary. He writes, “At the back of our brains, so to speak, there is a forgotten blaze or burst of astonishment at our own existence. The object of the artistic and spiritual life is to dig for this submerged sunrise of wonder; so that a man sitting in a chair may suddenly understand that he is actually alive, and be happy.”

In this moment of joyous realization, O’Siadhail wants to write, to speak, to sing in the primal wonder of Eden.

…history has
accumulated this moment, now funnels through me
the urge to utter. In this instant, I’m Adam
the first to mouth, to feel the garden overflow
in word and rhythm.

Yet even in this moment of wonder, he is fully aware of his many weaknesses, his failures, his shame. As he remembers, “idly watch(ing) the digital clock matchstick away my time…,” he also remembers the power of love that unjailed him.

…Some all-embracing love
forgives my shortfall and I am glad to present
this reconciled account.

Before he moves on from this brief autumn reflection and re-immerses into the “entrepreneurial everyday rush(ing) forward” O’Siadhail offers an assessment and challenge to himself as well as his hearers.

…Why hedge our bets
or play too cool; detached we might miss
the passion to broaden the bore, deepen the joy?

As I pause on this humid summer morning to reflect on O’Siadhail’s “Autumn Report.” I find myself quickened to the heart. In the midst of a life the is rushing past us, we might do well to pause remember the glory of being alive, the opportunity to step forward into the risk of loving and living deeply.

Thomas Merton once wrote, “To hope is to risk frustration. Therefore, make up your mind to risk frustration.” In the midst of disappointments, in the midst of failures, in the midst of loss, we are tempted to retreat into the safety, into passionless pragmatism. But everyday each of us are invited to “broaden the bore, deepen the joy.”

Whether we work as accountants or actors, cashiers or clowns, all of us are alive. All of us have the privilege of being immersed into the vital stream of existence. All of us are invited to take the risk of loving deeply, living fully, bringing our whole selves into the splendor of the moment. Let us not lose this glorious moment in the ashes of regret or the disappointment of dreams not realized.

Instead, let us lift up our voices in thanksgiving the Creator of all and breathe deep the glory of this life He has given us. Let us follow O’Siadhail as he spends his life in rejoicing, blessing and praising.

…Please give me
a few moments more, just to exult in this
last reflux of summer, luxuriate its praise.
Then gambling on, I’ll bless the breeze and go.

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