The adjective comes to us through the Middle English flete and Old English flēot, both meaning to float. In common usage, fleeting describes entities which exist for a brief time and pass away swiftly, often in the twinkling of an eye. Synonyms for fleeting are some of my favorite words ever - cursory, ephemeral, evanescent, fugacious, fugitive, impermanent, meteoric, momentary, passing, transitory, vanishing, volatile, deciduous, diaphanous, elusive, ephemerous, ethereal, gossamer, temporal, transient, transitory, vanishing, vaporous, volatile.
Himself, Spencer and I walked for hours in the Two Hundred Acre Wood a few days ago, making our slow meandering journey through dry windy sunlit woods that seemed to go on forever, across rocky slopes and through groves of whiskery trees, drifts of gold and copper leaves everywhere underfoot.
The Two Hundred Acre Wood is a different place than it was a few weeks ago. A hollow wind careens through the trees scattering leaves, pebbles, acorns and pods in all directions.The stalwart great oaks overlooking my favorite trail still wear their foliage, and the tamaracks nearby are turning lacy gold. Fields of goldenrod and milkweed have gone to seed, and their withered stalks watch like armies of silent observers committing our perambulations and the season to wild and fragrant memory.
And then there are the fine wild musics of October. I take my blackthorn walking stick along on our rambles, and it makes a pleasant racket scuffling through the fallen bounty around my feet. Wherever we go in our wanderings, we are attended by flocks of geese overhead, by the exultant tumult of the creek in the gorge as it plunges headlong over the rocks to the beaver pond on the other side of the property.
On sunny afternoons, we lean against an old tree, basking in the light slanting through the woodland, and there is a clear sense that everything around us is fragile and fleeting and precious. It seems like only yesterday that we were rejoicing in the filtered emerald light of summer and contemplating our unruly rural garden. Now here we are in the autumn woods, seeing all around us the clear irrefutable evidence that another deep northern winter is on its way.
The turning of the seasons is a potent reminder that we exist for only a brief time in the Great Round. Here for a scant handful of days, we are lit from within as we go walking through this world - we blaze with life and spirit and throw off sparks. Perhaps that is not surprising given our origins. Life is a glorious fleeting thing, and autumn says that best.