‘These Precious Days . . .’

(Life is getting back to what passes for normal around here, and while that process goes on, I decided to take a look in the EITW archives. As I did, I came across a piece written eight years ago today, during our first autumn in our little house just off Lincoln Avenue. I’ve made a few revisions and selected a different version of the song.)

Oh, it’s a long, long while from May to December,
But the days grow short when you reach September.

No, I’m not channeling intimations of mortality this morning as I ponder Willie Nelson’s melancholy version of “September Song.” But it is late September, and it is autumn, my favorite of seasons.

I often wonder if there’s some sliver of my being that lingers from the long-ago days of my Swedish and German ancestors, some bit of soul memory that recalls the Septembers and Octobers of Northern Europe. For I connect with that distant past as the leaves turn their browns, golds and reds and then release themselves from their trees. It pleases me on some level to hear talk of first frost, and I noted the passing of last week’s equinox, when the nighttime begins to fill more of our hours than does the daylight, with the quiet satisfaction of a man who feels his best time is come again.

This is my season. Were I a vintner, my wines would be autumnal and bittersweet.

In all those things mentioned above – the chilling of the weather, the fading of the leaves, the fading of the light – there lies the metaphor of our of own chilling and fading. And simple time sometimes reminds us, too. My father had his first heart attack forty-two years ago this week, just before he turned fifty-five. I’m eight years older than that now, and thankfully, show no indications of any heart ailments. I think about that as I look out my study window and watch the oaks trees just this week beginning to surrender their first leaves, one by one.

My father survived that trial and lived through another twenty-eight autumns before leaving on a late springtime day in 2003. I don’t foresee an early exit for me, either, no matter the twinge of melancholy found in both autumn’s winds and Nelson’s version of the song, written long ago by Maxwell Anderson and Kurt Weill. And it’s worth noting that, as drear as “September Song” might seem, it centers on a promise.

Now, promises can be cruel things, and – knowing that – I once told my loved one that I could not promise forever. But, I said, I would promise tomorrow. Come tomorrow, I would promise another tomorrow. And then another and another, until all the tomorrows were done. That’s a promise I will keep.

And here’s what Nelson – and all who’ve offered us “September Song” over the years – promises as the ending nears:

Oh, the days dwindle down to a precious few.
September. November.
And these few precious days, I’ll spend with you.
These precious days I’ll spend with you.

So, for my Texas Gal, and for all those anywhere who hold to love while the leaves fall and the days dwindle, here’s Willie Nelson’s version of “September Song.” It’s from his 1978 album Stardust.


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