Nothing Gold Can Stay

Afternoon sun stripes the dark green grass with the rich, golden timbre of September, sending illuminated ribbons into the shadows between the trees that crowd around the creek. A few stems of goldenrod rise like fountains from between the gray rocks along the uphill slope.

Not long from now, and almost before dinner, the trees will become silhouettes against the pale evening, all gold drained from the sky and absorbed into the pink surface of cirrostratus clouds.

It was the poet Robert Frost who wrote, “Nothing gold can stay.”

For all the poems celebrating the substance of autumn splendor, there are probably just as many pondering its melancholic quality.

Carl Sandburg laments:

I cried over beautiful things knowing no beautiful thing lasts.

The field of cornflower yellow is a scarf at the neck of the copper
sunburned woman, the mother of the year, the taker of seeds.
The northwest wind comes and the yellow is torn full of holes, new
        beautiful things come in the first spit of snow on the northwest
        wind, and the old things go, not one lasts.

Snow has not entered my mind as we have just crossed the threshold of autumn, about to don her yellow scarf. But as quickly as anticipation rises for the autumn glories to come, the reality of its swift passage looms. In two months the canopy along the creek will become the carpet covering its banks. The tattered scarf will be blown completely away.

Even the ancient, wise king Solomon wrestled with such thoughts, writing more from a whole-life perspective than a seasonal one:

Remember your Creator before the silver cord is loosed,
Or the golden bowl is broken [for nothing gold can stay],
Or the pitcher shattered at the fountain,
Or the wheel broken at the well.

I’m always aware of the requirement to savor and enjoy every moment of beauty in whatever form it comes, lest it be lost. To redeem the time with joy and gratitude. But my morning meditations over the past month have reminded me that while moments and seasons of gold slip through one’s fingers like sunlight, my life is built upon something much more precious—and solid—than gold. I love these words penned by Peter, the disciple of Jesus Christ:

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.

In the greater and more challenging season of this world that we live in, my greatest joy and happiness is only reflected in those small autumn gifts of golden leaves, pungent chrysanthemums and crisp, morning walks. The presence of God, my living Hope, sustains me when the shadows deepen. His promise of an eternal season that will never fade away fills my soul like the refreshing, bubbling waters of a river flowing long past the last leaf has fallen. And that’s the beauty I will rejoice in most as autumn begins.

For Further Contemplation:

Nothing Gold Can Stay, by Robert Frost

Autumn Movement, by Carl Sandburg

Gold in My Hands (March 2011 post)

Ecclesiastes 12

Psalm 16

Matthew 7:24-27

1 Peter 1:3-9

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