There’s an ache in the air of autumn. It’s called nostalgia. Nostalgia means “to return home,” home to memories, to the old days, to the longings of times past, some happy, some sad but all about life. For me, it happens in autumn. Perhaps it’s the leaves changing, the chill outside and the warmth within, the yearning, the remembering. It can be a time to smile or perhaps a time to cry, but mostly, it’s a time to remember . . .
It was November, thirty years ago in Richmond, Virginia. I was eight months pregnant.
We lived in a beautifully restored townhouse on West Avenue in an old section of town called “The Fan.” As I sat on the porch early one morning—I’m still a “porch sitter”—I was inspired by the moment as I wrote this poem. That moment became a “freeze-frame” of my feelings. Each time I read it, I am transported back to those happy, warm memories. I hope this helps bring your own memories back to mind and heart.
The Porch Vigil
Gray cats abound on West Avenue,
emerging one by one from places unseen
in the crisp morning air,
hastening their step as if to keep
just a little bit warmer.
And then, like friends on a happy adventure,
they espy the jewels of autumn–
A host of crunchy, crackly leaves
waiting to be . . .
pounced on . . .
Fall has come to the Avenue.
There’s a feeling of warmth in this season,
more in mind than in air.
Warm fires, warm friends, warm spirits to enjoy,
–the cozy smell of wood-smoke–
Warm memories of other friends and places,
other autumns gone-by.
A lone leaf falls as I watch the day wake.
A stray dog saunters by–
perhaps in search of an elusive gray cat.
The turrets across the road—five in
glisten with dew as the first rays of warmth
sharpen their shadows,
lighting their corners and curves,
offset by vibrant hues of russet
Such beauty leaves show in relinquishing life,
lingering in the glory of a life fully lived.
A student hurries by, it’s near eight o’clock.
And a runner, Jack, in hat, gloves
returns home to coffee
and fresh bread awaiting–
A fitting reward for his early, valiant efforts.
He stops for a word–
the “porch vigil” he calls me.
But soon my vigil will be done for the day.
The shadows grow shorter,
the gray cats are gone.
The morning’s unfolded, it’s time to go in–
till tomorrow’s quiet dawn when
my vigil begins anew,
Of a new day awakening,
of people passing by,
of gray cats in piles of russet leaves,
of warm, golden shadows on turrets,
of Fall on West Avenue.
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