There are many ways and reasons to fall. Leaves in this part of the world are preparing for their annual autumnal fall. Some already have fallen, and the maple in front of the house is nearly halfway from green to red. In another four weeks, maybe sooner, I expect it will be bare. The annual leaf fall is a spectacular show of completion and promise.
Erich Brenn represents another kind of fall, the kind we try to prevent, the kind that has occupied too much of my life. Brenn appeared on Ed Sullivan’s TV show in the 1950s and 1960s to entertain us by keeping all those plates and bowls spinning while we waited for one or more of them to fall, quietly cheering him on while secretly hoping to see him fail. He gave us, I suppose, the metaphor that described then and still describes our too-busy lives in which we race to keep our own plates spinning and running ourselves breathless to prevent disaster.
For three weeks I’m stepping away from much of the work to which I usually give my attention and letting things fall. And those things don’t fall with a crash but with a sigh of relief, the kind of sigh Robert Frost described in his poem “The Armful.” It’s time to let fall in the middle of the road things that are too many to carry and too dear to leave behind and “try to stack them in a better load.”
And it’s time to recall the words of William Henry Davies (1871-1940), the “poet of the tramps.” The closing couplet of his poem “Leisure” reminds me what’s missing among all those spinning plates and what’s present in the falling of the leaves: “A poor life this if, full of care, / We have no time to stand and stare.” It’s a graceful coincidence, this gift of vacation in the midst of leaf fall, the rich promise of renewal in the midst of letting go. It’s time to stand and stare for a bit.