A year ending in a blaze of colour


This is my favourite season, autumn, when nature begins her slumber, but before turning in, she bursts forth in a spectacular show of colour, a splendour that lifts up our hearts, and comforts us before the inevitable arrival of winter. Everything around us is born, lives, then slowly dies. We die too, no matter what our state in life. But while we live, there is so much to appreciate and to be thankful for.

shogunzaka kyoto

Yesterday, I spent hours hiking in the forests, along a small winding river, enjoying the autumn sunshine and the stunning display of autumn colours among the Japanese maple trees. I thanked our Creator for having given me the chance to see such beauty and enjoy the crisp autumn air. How we take for granted that we are healthy and can still do hikes in the mountains!

Camellia flowers and a poem by Christina Rossetti

Spring is here at last after a long, cold winter. The cherry blossom buds hang tight on the trees, but the camellia flowers are in full bloom.

camellia flowers


Frost-locked all the winter,
Seeds, and roots, and stones of fruits,
What shall make their sap ascend
That they may put forth shoots?
Tips of tender green,
Leaf, or blade, or sheath;
Telling of the hidden life
That breaks forth underneath,
Life nursed in its grave by Death.

Blows the thaw-wind pleasantly,
Drips the soaking rain,
By fits looks down the waking sun:
Young grass springs on the plain;
Young leaves clothe early hedgerow trees;
Seeds, and roots, and stones of fruits,
Swollen with sap put forth their shoots;
Curled-headed ferns sprout in the lane;
Birds sing and pair again.

There is no time like Spring,
When life’s alive in everything,
Before new nestlings sing,
Before cleft swallows speed their journey back
Along the trackless track –
God guides their wing,
He spreads their table that they nothing lack, –
Before the daisy grows a common flower
Before the sun has power
To scorch the world up in his noontide hour.

There is no time like Spring,
Like Spring that passes by;
There is no life like Spring-life born to die, –
Piercing the sod,
Clothing the uncouth clod,
Hatched in the nest,
Fledged on the windy bough,
Strong on the wing:
There is no time like Spring that passes by,
Now newly born, and now
Hastening to die.

– by Christina Rossetti

An autumn poem by Thomas Hood

Curl up under a wool blanket with your favourite drink (red wine, hot chocolate, or tea) and read this poem by Thomas Hood (1798-1845).

autumn leaves


I Saw old Autumn in the misty morn
Stand shadowless like Silence, listening
To silence, for no lonely bird would sing
Into his hollow ear from woods forlorn,
Nor lowly hedge nor solitary thorn;—
Shaking his languid locks all dewy bright
With tangled gossamer that fell by night,
Pearling his coronet of golden corn.

Where are the songs of Summer?—With the sun,
Oping the dusky eyelids of the south,
Till shade and silence waken up as one,
And Morning sings with a warm odorous mouth.
Where are the merry birds?—Away, away,
On panting wings through the inclement skies,
Lest owls should prey
Undazzled at noonday,
And tear with horny beak their lustrous eyes.

Where are the blooms of Summer?—In the west,
Blushing their last to the last sunny hours,
When the mild Eve by sudden Night is prest
Like tearful Proserpine, snatch’d from her flow’rs
To a most gloomy breast.
Where is the pride of Summer,—the green prime,—
The many, many leaves all twinkling?—Three
On the moss’d elm; three on the naked lime
Trembling,—and one upon the old oak-tree!
Where is the Dryad’s immortality?—
Gone into mournful cypress and dark yew,
Or wearing the long gloomy Winter through
In the smooth holly’s green eternity.

The squirrel gloats on his accomplish’d hoard,
The ants have brimm’d their garners with ripe grain,
And honey bees have stored
The sweets of Summer in their luscious cells;
The swallows all have wing’d across the main;
But here the Autumn melancholy dwells,
And sighs her tearful spells
Amongst the sunless shadows of the plain.
Alone, alone,
Upon a mossy stone,
She sits and reckons up the dead and gone
With the last leaves for a love-rosary,
Whilst all the wither’d world looks drearily,
Like a dim picture of the drownèd past
In the hush’d mind’s mysterious far away,
Doubtful what ghostly thing will steal the last
Into that distance, gray upon the gray.

O go and sit with her, and be o’ershaded
Under the languid downfall of her hair:
She wears a coronal of flowers faded
Upon her forehead, and a face of care;—
There is enough of wither’d everywhere
To make her bower,—and enough of gloom;
There is enough of sadness to invite,
If only for the rose that died, whose doom
Is Beauty’s,—she that with the living bloom
Of conscious cheeks most beautifies the light:
There is enough of sorrowing, and quite
Enough of bitter fruits the earth doth bear,—
Enough of chilly droppings for her bowl;
Enough of fear and shadowy despair,
To frame her cloudy prison for the soul!

— Thomas Hood (1798-1845)

Autumn is here

Today is the autumn equinox. It marks the beginning of autumn, my favourite season. I look forward to cooler days and nights, cuddling up under a woolen blanket with a glass of red wine in one hand, and a book in the other. What books? Ghost stories, especially those written by M.R. James which have a lot of spooky atmosphere. His stories often take place in dark ancient cathedrals and haunted houses. When October comes around, I will post my favourite ghost stories.

In the meantime, here is a poem about the Japanese maple. In Japan, the autumn equinox is a public holiday (as is the spring equinox).

japanese maple leaf

Japanese Maple

by Clive James

Your death, near now, is of an easy sort.
So slow a fading out brings no real pain.
Breath growing short
Is just uncomfortable. You feel the drain
Of energy, but thought and sight remain:
Enhanced, in fact. When did you ever see
So much sweet beauty as when fine rain falls
On that small tree
And saturates your brick back garden walls,
So many Amber Rooms and mirror halls?
Ever more lavish as the dusk descends
This glistening illuminates the air.
It never ends.
Whenever the rain comes it will be there,
Beyond my time, but now I take my share.
My daughter’s choice, the maple tree is new.
Come autumn and its leaves will turn to flame.
What I must do
Is live to see that. That will end the game
For me, though life continues all the same:
Filling the double doors to bathe my eyes,
A final flood of colours will live on
As my mind dies,
Burned by my vision of a world that shone
So brightly at the last, and then was gone.


Follow Father Johannes Schwarz on his pilgrimage along the Via Alpina Sacra

Follow Father Johannes Schwarz on his pilgrimage along the Via Alpine Sacra starting May 15, 2018 by visiting his Instagram and YouTube sites.

Father Schwarz’s website, 4kmh.com says:

The The Via Alpina Sacra is the attempt at the longest pilgrimage route through the alps connecting 8 countries and more than 200 of the largest, most beautiful, oldest, highest, most significant Catholic shrines, churches and monasteries. Its length is about 2550 miles (4100km) with 600.000 vertical feet (180.000m) of positive elevation change (i.e. counting only ups). Its starting point is the patriarchal basilica of Aquileia (Italy). Its end point is one of the oldest monastic settlements in the West on the island of Saint-Honorat (410) off Cannes (France).


Today he posted this photo (see below) of the stunning Patriarchal Basilica of Aquileia on the northern end of the Adriatic Sea, near Grado, where he begins his pilgrimage.