Those of us who had to study Robert Frost (or who grew up reading the fabulous S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders…”Do it for Johnny!”) know the famous poem that begins, “Nature’s first green is gold.”
But lately, in this glorious blaze of fall colors, I’ve been feeling that nature’s last green is truly gold, as well. Not only literally, though I am surrounded by fire colors of the trees, of the harvest moon rising, of the early morning sun. They are in fact golden. But also, there is something poignant in all the glorious color. These are death throes, really: the last gasp of color and life before the endless gray and brown November takes hold. And knowing they are gone so soon makes them even more special.
The photos below are on the beach near our house last week. It is October 28th, we are in New England, and the days are getting awfully short. I always love the beach, whether in the cold dead of winter with the snow on the sand or in the bitter days of spring when I first take my shoes and my fish-white feet freeze in the cold water. But this particular day was more special than most, because it was a goodbye of sorts – the absolute last, serendipitous chance to swim.
Good things must come to an end – this is a fact of life and the making of great stories. In Swim I had to make something end that many first readers thought would (and maybe even should) end differently. I cried writing it. I kind of wanted it to end differently myself. But the story I wanted to tell was the story about saying goodbye. And while I won’t give away the ending, I will say that even the best times don’t last forever. And knowing you’re saying goodbye can make it matter so much more.