Altogether Autumn

It’s time to plant the bulbs. But I put it off as long as possible because planting bulbs mean making space in borders which are still flowering. Pulling out all the annuals which nature has allowed to erupt in overpowering purple, orange and pink, a final cry of joy. That would almost be murder, and so I wait until the first night frost anaesthetizes all the flowers with a cold, a creaky crust that causes them to wither; a very gentle death. Now I wander through my garden indecisively, trying to hold on to the last days of late summer.

The trees are plump with leafy splendor. The birch is softly rustling gold, which is now fluttering down like an unending stream of confetti. Soon November will be approaching with its autumn storms and leaden clouds hanging above your head like soaking wet rags. Just let it stay like this, I think, gazing at the huge mysterious shadows the trees conjure up on the shining green meadows, the cows languidly flicking their tails. Everything breathes an air of stillness, the silence rent by the exuberant color of asters, dahlias, sunflowers and roses.

The mornings begin chilly. The evenings give you shivers and cold feet in bed. But in the middle of the day the sun breaks through, evaporating the mist on the grass, butterflies and wasps appear and cobwebs glisten against windows like silver lace. The harvest of a whole year’s hard work is on the trees and bushes; berries, beech mast, chestnuts, and acorns.

Suddenly, I think of my youngest daughter, living now in Amsterdam. Very soon she will call and ask, “Have you planted the bulbs yet?” Then I will answer teasingly that actually I’m waiting until she comes to help me. And then we will both be overcome by nostalgia, because once we always did that together. One entire sunny autumn afternoon, when she was three and a half years old, she helped me with all enthusiasm and joyfulness of her age.

It was one of the last afternoons that I had her around, because her place in school has been already reserved. She wandered around so happily carefree with her little bucket and spade, covering the bulbs with earth and calling out “Night, night” or “Sleep night”, her little voice chattering constantly on. She discovered “baby bulbs”, “kiddie bulbs”, and “mummy and daddy bulbs”, the latter snuggling cozily together. While we were both working so industriously, I watched my kid very deliberately. She was such a tiny thing, between an infant and a toddler, with such a round little tummy.

Every autumn, throughout her childhood, we repeated the ritual of planting the bulbs together. Every autumn I saw her changing, the toddler became a schoolgirl, a straightforward realist, full of drive. Never once dreamy, her hands in her pockets; no longer happily indulging in her fantasies. The schoolgirl developed long legs, her jaw-line changed, she had her hair cut. It was autumn again that I thought “bye roses, bye butterflies, bye schoolgirl”. I listened to her stories while we painstakingly burrowed in the earth, planting the promise of spring.

Suddenly, much quicker than I had expected, a tall teenager was standing by my side. She is taller than I. The ritual became rather silent, and we no longer chatter from one subject to another. I thought about her room full of posters and knick-knacks, how it had been full of treasures in bottles and boxes, white peddles, a copper brooch, colored drawings, the treasures of a child who still knew nothing of money, who wanted to be read to and who looked anxiously at a spider at her room and asked, “Would he want to be my friend?”

Then came the autumn when I planted the bulbs alone, and I knew from then on it would always be that way. But every year, in autumn, she talks about it, full of nostalgia for the security of childhood, the seclusion of a garden, the final moments of a season. How both of us would dearly love to have a time machine to go back. Just for a day.

人间尽秋(陆谷孙 译)

​ 到了栽种球茎植物的时候了。我却是能拖则拖,因为栽种球茎得在园篱处腾出空间,而此时篱上仍开着朵朵鲜花。把一年生植物强行拔起,掐死造化恩赐的紫绛、橘黄和浅红这一片烂漫,阻断自然界的最后欢声,简直无异于谋杀。所以我要等待第一个霜降之夜,等待花瓣全部沾上一层冷冽的霜晶,蒙无知觉中自行凋零,和婉地寿终正寝。我在园中徜徉,拿不定主意,只求留住残夏的最后几天。

​ 树叶犹盛,光鲜可人。白桦婆娑轻摇,一片片金色的叶子飘飘落地,有如一溜不绝如缕的庆典彩纸。十一月行将降临,带来秋的凄风苦雨和铅灰色阴云,像浸水的抹布一样压在你的头顶。但愿眼下的好天气会持续下去,我这样想,一边注视着树木在绿油油的草地上投下的幢幢诡谲黑影,还有倦慵地甩动尾巴的牛群。一片静谧,唯有紫菀、大丽菊、向日葵和玫瑰的浓艳色彩似在撕裂四下的沉寂。

​ 清晨时分,天气凛冽,到了夜晚,你打起了哆嗦,躺在床上双脚冰凉。但在正午时分,阳光拨开云层,将雾霭化作蒸汽,在草地上升腾。蝴蝶和黄蜂开始出没,蛛网犹如丝带,挂在窗前闪出银光。树梢上和灌木丛里凝结了整整一年的辛劳,浆果、毛栗、板栗和橡实等着收获归仓。

​ 突然,想到如今客居阿姆斯特丹的幼女。这两天,她定会打电话来问:“球茎植物种下了吗?”随即我会用打趣的口吻回答说,老妈正等着她来帮忙下种呢。接着母女双双陷入怀旧的情思,因为从前有段时间我们总是合作下种的,她才三岁半的那年,一个秋阳万里的午后,女儿曾怀着她那年龄特有的全部踊跃和欢乐,做过我的帮手。 生活中女儿绕膝的下午不多了,因为学校已给她留出一个名额。她带上自己的小桶和铲子,兴高采烈又无忧无虑地满园子跑,给球茎培掩泥土的同时,用尖细的嗓子一遍又一遍聒噪着“晚安,晚安”或是“睡个好觉”。她还分别发现了“贝贝种”和“娃娃种”,还有“妈妈爸爸种”,后者指的是那些亲密依偎的球茎种。两人辛苦劳作的同时,我曾留意审视孩子:真是个小不点儿,出了襁褓,挺着个圆滚滚的小肚子刚开始蹒跚学步。

​ 在女儿童年期的每个秋季,我们履行仪式似的种下球茎植物,而每个秋季,我都注意到女儿身上发生的变化。学步小儿长大成了女学生,成为一个充满进取心又坦率直面现实的人,从不把双手插在口袋里想入非非,再不靠恣意幻想而自得其乐。女学生的双腿变得修长,下颏的轮廓线变了,要上理发店剪发了。秋季再次来临时,我在心里默念“别了,玫瑰;别了,蝴蝶;别了,女学生。”当我们使劲在泥土里掘洞,种下明春的希望时,我在倾听女儿述说她的故事。

​ 突然,站在我身旁的女儿成了大姑娘,变化之神速远胜我的预料。随后,她的身高超过了我。下种成了相对无言的程式,不再有天南海北的闲聊。我不由地想起她那挂满大幅招贴以及充斥各种小摆设的房间,而先前这儿多的是瓶子和纸盒,白色的卵石,一枚铜制胸针,彩色图画。这些都是一个尚不知晓金钱为何物的幼儿的珍藏品,一个要大人读书给她听的稚女,见了屋里的蛛网会忧心忡忡地发问:“蜘蛛愿跟我做朋友吗?”

​ 接着就是我独自下种的那个秋天,我还知道从此就是单干的命了。但每年秋天,她总要提到下种的事,口气里充满怀旧的意味,缅想事事都有保障的童年,幽闭的庭园,一个季节的最后时刻。母女俩多么衷心希望有一台时间机器,能回到往昔,即便过上一天也好。