At first, Lou is uncertain she wants to be in such an isolated environment. But once she reaches the remote island house, and begins her cataloging and research, a peace falls upon h Marian Engel's Governor General's Award winning novel, BEAR , is a unique little masterpiece. But once she reaches the remote island house, and begins her cataloging and research, a peace falls upon her. What she doesn't quite understand yet is that a bear lives in a shack behind the house.
Lives might be a stretch of the word, for the bear is chained to a wall in the shack.
Unbearable (Northern Bears, #2) by Jade Buchanan
In the beginning, Lou steers clear of the bear. Who wouldn't? But as time passes, Lou's bravery increases. Even when the local groundskeeper warns Lou of getting too close to the bear, she extends her bravery to the point of ultimately releasing the bear, breaking the bonds of the chains. This action of Lou is more than a plot technique for advancement. It is also a symbolic metaphor. Messages and symbols like this are not rare. Scattered throughout the pages, Engel ingeniously sends unspoken messages about such themes as: bondage, love, loneliness, mental health, individuality, and sexuality.
The brilliance of these messages comes in the way that Engel doesn't need to bash the reader over the head but can be gentle, crafty, and artistic. As time passes, Lou begins to think of the bear, dream of the bear, even interact with the bear. This sounds silly. I mean why in the world would a person want to interact with a bear? But, again, Engel is so deft with her writing that the relationship between the bear and Lou never comes across as cartoonish.
But then something happens. Lou engages the bear. No, that is not exactly right.
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Lou tricks the bear into pleasing her orally. When I read this part of the novel I almost choked on my drink. The picture of the bear pleasing Lou orally was so clear in my mind I had to stop and take a break from reading the novel. Strangely though, I wasn't disturbed by this. In fact, this sequence of events made sense. Lou is alone, separated from humanity. In the bear she finds companionship; a solace that drips with romanticism. To say more of this would only spoil the read. But there is so much more to this novel.
As a previous review stated: "There's an economy of elements to the book Do yourself a favor and find this novel. At under pages it is well worth your time. Bear by Marian Engel Lou, a cataloguer for a historical institute, is assigned to go live on an island in Northern Ontario where she will record all possessions in the estate of the late Colonel Jocelyn Cary, who has left her house and bear to the institute. Lou is a woman who, we are told, only feels purposeful and grounded by having instructions, but she ends up having sex with the bear, and through that, having unnamed guilt healed by having her back clawed, thereby experiencing a rebirth.
I'l Bear by Marian Engel Lou, a cataloguer for a historical institute, is assigned to go live on an island in Northern Ontario where she will record all possessions in the estate of the late Colonel Jocelyn Cary, who has left her house and bear to the institute. I'll give you a short pause to digest that. Ready or not, here's the review: This is a short book pages , and for the first 84 I was all in. I knew who this woman was—a loner like me who was out to have a personal epiphany or at least achieve self-knowledge.
And I liked the bear a lot. He was slow, docile, and trapped. For the first 84 pages, I was rooting for the bear and I applauded when he had the first sensual relationship with the woman. But then something awkward happened. Don't laugh. The first part really wasn't awkward. And it was not just because of the crass language.
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There was absolutely no heat, no smell, no organic motivation for this woman who thrives on cataloging to suddenly identify herself as a person who always goes too far, to have completely unsensual sex with the man who helps her out, to start yelling to the bear to tear her head off. The first thing I associate with a bear is heat—body, breath. Occasionally there is a mention of a smell, but you never experience it.
So ultimately my only strong feeling was sadness for the bear. He had been used by a self-involved character and I wanted better for him. The cover picture is wonderful and illustrates my lingering dismay. View all 23 comments. May 13, Nate D rated it really liked it Recommends it for: wilderness vacation reading, sort of. Recommended to Nate D by: knig. Shelves: 70s-delerium , canada , favorites , animal-lovers , read-in Wherein a youngish but isolated-in-her-modern-life archivist leaps at a chance to move into a different sort of isolation cataloguing an estate library on a remote island and bonds somewhat surreally-yet-unanthropomorphically-realistically with a certain member of the local semi-wildlife.
The notes and asides delivered in slips of paper from the past, the setting, the hard deadpan "reality" of the delivery are all handled perfectly. Especially the latter. In another book this would slip into a Wherein a youngish but isolated-in-her-modern-life archivist leaps at a chance to move into a different sort of isolation cataloguing an estate library on a remote island and bonds somewhat surreally-yet-unanthropomorphically-realistically with a certain member of the local semi-wildlife. In another book this would slip into absurdity or grotesquerie, or slip into a fabulous or myth that would deprive this of its clever thematic immediacy and pertinence.
Somehow, instead, it's utterly convincing. View all 5 comments. Aug 23, Diana rated it it was amazing. Unconventional sex and sexuality interests me, as a general rule. What interests me most about novels that deal with taboo sex is not the taboo per se, although there is something to be said about reading descriptions of the forbidden that is erotic in and of itself. Structurally, Bear is a short read, but the length is appropriate to reflect the laziness of summer and the urgency of the cataloguing that Lou, an archivist, is sent to undertake when she ventures to a nineteenth-century Northern Ontario home, a potential trove of local historical artefacts.
I never doubted for a moment that the love that Lou comes to have for the bear was genuine, passionate, and incredibly deep. Yet there were moments when I was struck by a great melancholy, realizing that the humanity that Lou inscribes upon the bear is a fiction she is composing and one that will inevitably come to an end.
The narrative that she tells herself saves her from a life and sense of worth that she would have grown not to hate, but to resign herself to. Her growth at the end of the novel is empowering: at the beginning of the novel, she is a mole among manuscripts and maps, digging and dreading the feel of the outside world.
At the end of the novel, she is surrounded by stars and bear-lore and self-knowledge. Women leave her wanting, and inanimate objects leave her cold. I also identified with Lou. Jul 18, Jimmy rated it really liked it Shelves: and-a-half-stars , years , novel , female , canada , bear-bear.
Unlike most of the fiction titles in my bear-bear shelf at least based on the blurbs , this one does not take the absurdist-magical-sur-realist route. Instead, it admirably goes the route of realism or what we think of as realism , which is much harder considering the topic. How does a bookish woman end up falling in love and having sexual relations with a bear in any kind of believable fashion? And how do we end up falling for it, not even in a kitschy smirky superior way, but feeling for her Unlike most of the fiction titles in my bear-bear shelf at least based on the blurbs , this one does not take the absurdist-magical-sur-realist route.
And how do we end up falling for it, not even in a kitschy smirky superior way, but feeling for her and understanding her so completely? Good-ass writing, that's how. Yet, when the weather turned and the sun filtered into even her basement windows, when the sunbeams were laden with spring dust and the old tin ashtrays began to stink of a winter of nicotine and contemplation, the flaws in her plodding private world were made public, even to her, for although she loved old shabby things, things that had already been loved and suffered, objects with a a past, when she saw that her arms were slug-pale and her fingerprints grained with old, old ink, that the detritus with which she bedizened her bulletin boards was curled and valueless, when she found that her eyes would no longer focus in the light, she was always ashamed, for the image of the Good Life long ago stamped on her soul was quite different from this, and she suffered in contrast.
This year, however, she was due to escape the shaming moment of realization. The mole would not be forced to admit that it had been intended for an antelope. I was surprised by Marian Engel's pitch perfect prose, evoking her state of mind, the island's ephemeral clarity, the way she could hear every rustle of her clothes with intentionality. Her mindset too, and what the bear represents as well as what he actually is in real life. Maybe this is the central conflict. And the fact that this is not exactly an erotic novel, not a novel-ty item of bears-ploitation, but a real examination of love, or at least the one-sided projection of it that is, despite everything, still incredibly moving and tender.
She knew now that she loved him, loved him with a clean passion she had never felt before. She felt sometimes that he was God. The irony here being that this pure love, viewed from a human perspective, is perverse. And yet relations with humans, with Homer for instance, suddenly seem infinitely more perverse. Society has conditioned us to think one way, but only relations with animals outside of society can fulfill a potential of pure encounter, without conventions, mores, judgement--but fully present and sensual.
I love the attention she pays to the muskiness of the bear, the physical roughness and reality, to the non-human smells and textures, the strange equalness of the pair based on her desire for that rawness, yet her inevitable inability to handle that rawness. Did I mention I have a bear-bear shelf? Do I have to mention it again for you to click on it and hopefully suggest similar titles if you know of any?
View all 10 comments. I have nothing to add to the mountain of words, both adulatory and damning, that have been written about this book, except that perhaps more than with any other book reviewed on this site, I wish that, freedom of speech be damned, I could delete other users' reviews.
Bearing the Unbearable
For the love of reading, people, it's a novel. View all 4 comments. This poor book! The s sextastic cover promises bear erotica, which has caused many chuckles because it's a an award-winning Canadian book so hahaha those crazy Canucks. In reality, it's a story of a woman finding herself in the wilderness. So if you were here for the sex, leave now. The summary: A quiet, young librarian gets an assignment to catalogue a collection on a remote island. On the island she finds a tame bear and she begins to question herself about life, relationships and her prev This poor book!
On the island she finds a tame bear and she begins to question herself about life, relationships and her previous existence in the city. In the city she's not depressed, but she's not happy either, just going through the motions. The island and the bear change her. It's a feminist tale. That doesn't mean that there isn't some sexual stuff in here, but it's more depressing than titillating.
You probably wouldn't wank to The Unbearable Lightness of Being, and so you won't wank to this. A good, smart, slim read which reads very much Canadian with the capital C. If looking for more sexually charged material with less ponderous thoughts there's Chuck Tingle. Ethically, animals are not responsible — nor should they be — to uphold human laws, but humans are. Restricting animals such as Bear by human-invented constructs of sexual agency and the concept of informed consent is to measure them by standards outside of their species.
This is not the case when a human commits a crime against an animal. Sex without informed consent with an animal — human or otherwise — is rape. Therefore, if an animal suffers under abuse as a human does, they are no different in terms of rape victimhood. Lou does not see herself as a bear, or Bear as a human, nor does she have any delusion that Bear could give informed consent. They were creatures. Lou seems disinterested in understanding the Bear and his mind, more interested in his body. Lou is only at the Cary house for a summer.
Lou takes advantage of a bear that has been a captive of humans for many years, possibly sexually abused by Lucy, the Indigenous woman, and the Colonel. In this way, Bear could have developed Stockholm Syndrome himself, forced to be docile and submissive around his keepers, even when he could physically overwhelm them. Therefore, it is feasible to argue that he does not treat licking Lou as a sexual act, more as an act that simply makes her happy, and through her contentment, more likely to give him treats, take him to the water, and play with him.
This is another sign of conditioned response; he has been trained to please his captors. In that way, she does not care if he is attracted to her; that is not important. Lou has never needed consent to feel she has right to abuse Bear. The only instance in which Bear becomes erect is at the climax of the novel; here, Lou notices his arousal and tries to have sex with him but is injured instead Engel There is no preamble, no attempt on his part to be submissive and please her; [s]he looked at him.
He did not move. He reached out one great paw and ripped the skin on her back. He had lost his erection and was sitting in the same posture. She could see nothing, nothing in his face to tell her what to do. The one instance when penetrative rape is truly threatening him, he acts violently, never having shown a violent or aggressive side before in the novel. His sexual agency was encroached upon, and he responded in defense. This moment is another attempted rape of Bear, and while he did not attack her the first time, he is ready to defend himself and his sexual agency in this instance.
This is yet another critic who is content to see an anthropomorphized, allegorized bear rather than the person himself. Of course, if he is a bear, as the facts of the narrative point out clearly to us through its clear and frequent physical descriptions of Bear, he is grossly abused by the protagonist, his sexual agency disregarded as she attempts twice to rape him.
With Lou and Bear, the relationship is obviously manipulative and abusive. It was the night of the falling stars. She took him to the riverbank.
They swam in the still, black water. They did not play. They were serious that night. They swam in circles around each other, very solemnly. Then they went to the shore, and instead of shaking himself on her, he lay beside her and licked the water from her body while she, on her back, let the stars fall, one, two, fourteen, a million, it seemed, falling on her, ready to burn her.
Once she reached up to one, it seemed so close It was the night of the falling stars. Once she reached up to one, it seemed so close, but its brightness faded from her grasp, faded into the milky way. Such a typical Canadian love scene: falling stars and inky swims, sleeping on marsh grass and wakening to a "mysterious green flickering aurora". What is atypical is that the "she" in this scene is a staid librarian from Toronto, spending the summer archiving the contents of a remote island home that had been left to her Historical Institute, and the "he" of the scene is a tame black bear that came with the estate.
I learned about this forgotten gem of Canadiana it won the Governor General's Literary Award for fiction in from this article that refers to Bear as "the best Canadian novel of all time", and that was a reading challenge I couldn't resist. At a scant pages, Bear is packed with the Canadian or at least Ontarian experience -- from the uptightness of 's Toronto to the swarming blackflies and water-skiers of Northern Ontario Cottage Country; from the brief glimpse of genteel British immigrant-life of the mid's to a solitary backwoods woman who runs traplines and tans hides for a living; from a hundred-year-old Native woman who converses with bears to a librarian's hopeful search for an annotated edition of Roughing it in the Bush -- this book couldn't be more Canadian if it was soaked in maple syrup and used as a puck in a street hockey shinny game Car!
But all of that is just incidental -- this is the story of Lou: too smart, too independent, too undomesticated to find love, she has immersed herself in her work, and at 27, is considered past her prime so many reviewers call Lou "middle-aged", but at 27? Sent to Cary Island to archive the contents of its only home, Lou -- a city girl with no love for either nature or animals -- has a transformative experience that frees her from the unsatisfying gender politics of sexual relations. Bear has enjoyed a surge in popularity based on this recent Imgur post , and although I can understand why a love affair between a woman and a bear makes for good internet smartassery, this book isn't really smutty or overly graphic.
Gender issues so much more urgent in the North America of than today, no matter what our culture of victimisation declares are at the forefront as are the changing roles of women due to the sexual revolution -- Lou a sexually ambiguous name is also enjoyed by the last owner of Cary Island, a woman named "Colonel" is no shy virgin and it is eventually revealed that she has had long affairs and one night stands, tried sex with women and inanimate objects, been told to have an abortion, and has a regular hookup with her boss.
Self-supporting and with access to physical contact without messy domestic entanglements, Lou has come a long way Baby but, as I imagine was the case for some percentage of the early feminists, she found the lack of emotional connection to be coldly unsatisfying. Yet, when the weather turned and the sun filtered into even her basement windows, when the sunbeams were laden with spring dust and the old tin ashtrays began to stink of a winter of nicotine and contemplation, the flaws in her plodding private world were made public, even to her, for although she loved old shabby things, things that had already been loved and suffered, objects with a past, when she saw that her arms were slug-pale and her fingerprints grained with old, old ink, that the detritus with which she bedizened her bulletin boards was curled and valueless, when she found that her eyes would no longer focus in the light, she was always ashamed, for the image of the Good Life long ago stamped on her soul was quite different from this, and she suffered in contrast.
What works brilliantly in Bear is that what Lou eventually does find fulfilling comes from within herself, and to that end, it could only have been a nonhuman lover that elicited the change in a manner free from gender- and sexual-politics. I am happy to have stumbled upon this book as it mixes so well with my regular reading interests: not only is this my third Canadian book with a starring bear this year -- along with The Bear and All the Broken Things -- but I recently read another novella "The Seven-Ounce Man" from Julip in which a character is determined to test the transformative power of sleeping outdoors under a bear skin.
Although I don't know if there's authentic history to that belief, I was mindful of it as Lou spent the night wrapped in an actual bear. This book is more important than the Imgur-inspired mockery might suggest, but as that post led to the article I read, and as that led to me finding Bear , I will be grateful for serendipity in all its modes.
It feels like nothing else on the continent. With education, proper preparation and bear-aware hiking and camping techniques, you should have a safe and satisfying backcountry experience. The most dangerous thing about your trip to grizzly country, I assure you, is driving to the trailhead.
Human deaths attributed to grizzly bears in ? Grizzlies killed by humans in ? Over alone just in British Columbia. It would appear that grizzlies should be more afraid of us, than we of them. In late August I was backpacking just outside of Yellowstone National Park where a hiker experienced in hiking in Yellowstone was killed by a grizzly bear this past summer I had to wear bear spray and carry an air horn.
The bear spray weighs over 10 oz and is difficult to handle. We were advised to make noise constantly and be alert. We like to chat or be silent so we can look at the beautiful scenery. Instead we were hyper alert watching for bears. The experience was unpleasant and uncomfortable. It makes us reluctant to hike in grizzly country.
I wonder how many people know that the North Cascades Grizzly Bear recovery zone includes the entire Alpine Lakes, Glacier Peak, and Paseyton Wildernesses as well as much of the federal land north of I I believe one of the Gypsy Peak trails Craig mentioned is currently closed from August 15 because of grizzly bear activity.
The advice in grizzly country is no solo hiking and try to be in groups of 4 or more. Also, I wonder what will happen to the already established black bears when they have to compete with grizzlies. Adrenaline rushes and romantic dreaming did not materialize. It was stressful. Interesting note, we were not able to camp at the campground just outside Cooke City, because it is posted no tents allowed we are tent campers. I am not sure what to think about the reintroduction of grizzlies in the North Cascades.
The recovery zone is huge including much more than North Cascades National Park and i assume this would effect many Mountaineers members in their activities. Thank you Mountaineers for posting this article on the web page. The topic deserves visibility. Helping people explore, conserve, learn about, and enjoy the lands and waters of the Pacific Northwest and beyond.
Tax ID: Get outside with us! Learn More. Share this Page: Facebook Twitter Email. Grizzlies in the North Cascades: Unbearable to ponder or barely a concern? Straight from his popular column, Trail Talk, Craig Romano talks about the prospect of grizzly bears in the North Cascades. Tags: Magazine. Add a comment Log in to add comments. The heavens are allowed to bring forth the bright daylight and lay it to rest in the darkness of night: the year is allowed alternately to deck the face of the earth with fruit and flowers and to disfigure it with cloud and cold.
The sea is allowed either to be calm and inviting or to rage with storm-driven breakers. Inconstancy is my very essence; it is the game I never cease to play as I turn my wheel in its ever changing circle, filled with joy as I bring the top to the bottom and the bottom to the top. You must surely have been aware of my ways. You must have heard of Croesus , king of Lydia, who was once able to terrorize his enemy Cyrus , only to be reduced to misery and be condemned to be burnt alive: only a shower of rain saved him.
Indeed, my very mutability gives you just cause to hope for better things. So you should not wear yourself out by setting your heart on living according to a law of your own in a world that is shared by everyone. But if there is some argument which you can offer as a just defence for your complaints, you must put it forward and we will give you a hearing.
But it is only while one is actually listening that one is filled with pleasure, and for the wretched, the pain of their suffering goes deeper. So as soon as your words stop sounding in our ears, the mind is weighed down again by its deep seated melancholy. When the time comes, I will apply something calculated to penetrate deep inside. In the meantime stop thinking of yourself as plunged in misery. Have you forgotten how fortunate you have been in many ways?
Even before you became their kinsman, you had begun to win their love, and that is the most precious kind of kinship of all. There was no one who would not have called you the luckiest man in the world, considering the glory reflected from your new connexions, the modesty of your wife, and the blessings your two sons proved to be. I have no desire to waste time on ordinary matters, so I will pass over the various dignities you received while still a young man, dignities which are denied the majority of men at any age.
I want to come straight to the outstanding culmination of your fortune. If the enjoyment of any earthly blessing brings with it any measure of happiness, the memory of that splendid day can never be destroyed by the burden however great of growing evil. I mean the day that you saw your two sons amid the crowding senators and the rapture of the people carried forth from your house to be consuls together — the day they took their official seats in the senate chamber to listen to you delivering the speech of congratulation to the king and saw the genius of your oratory receive its crowning recognition: the same day as you sat in the stadium between the two consuls and as if it were a military triumph let your largess fulfil the wildest expectations of the people packed in their seats around you.
And you went off with a gift never before bestowed on any private individual. Perhaps you would like to reckon up the score with her? You will find this is the very first time she has turned an unfriendly eye upon you. If you thought of all the things that have happened to you, what kind of things they were, and whether they were happy or unhappy things, you would not be able to say you have not been fortunate up to now. On the other hand, if you do not consider that you have been lucky because your onetime reasons for rejoicing have passed away, you cannot now think of yourself as in misery, because the very things that seem miserable are also passing away.
Why behave like a stranger newly arrived on the stage of life? You know there is no constancy in human affairs, when a single swift hour can often bring a man to nothing. What difference do you think it makes whether it is you that quit her by dying or she that quits you by desertion? It is the very thing, in fact, which makes me burn with grief as I remember it.
In all adversity of fortune, the most wretched kind is once to have been happy. Your wife, too, is alive, a lady unsurpassed in nobility and modesty of character; to sum up all her qualities in a word, I would say she is the mirror of her father. She is, as I say, still alive and in her disgust with this life draws every breath for you alone.
She longs for you and is consumed with tears and suffering, one thing in which I would concede that your happiness is diminished. You are a happy man, then, if you know where your true happiness lies, since when the chief concern of mortal men is to keep their hold on life, you even now possess blessings which no one can doubt are more precious than life itself. So dry your tears. Fortune has not yet turned her hatred against all your blessings. The storm has not yet broken upon you with too much violence.
Your anchors are holding firm and they permit you both comfort in the present, and hope in the future. But look how far events have gone since the time of my glory. No man is so completely happy that something somewhere does not clash with his condition. It is the nature of human affairs to be fraught with anxiety; they never prosper perfectly and they never remain constant. Some men are blessed with both wealth and noble birth, but are unhappy because they have no wife. Some are happily married but without children, and husband their money for an heir of alien blood.
Some again have been blessed with children only to weep over their misdeeds. No one finds it easy to accept the lot Fortune has sent him. There is something in the case of each of us that escapes the notice of the man who has not experienced it, but causes horror to the man who has. Remember, too, that all the most happy men are over-sensitive. They have never experienced adversity and so unless everything obeys their slightest whim they are prostrated by every minor upset, so trifling are the things that can detract from the complete happiness of a man at the summit of fortune.
How many men do you think would believe themselves almost in heaven if they possessed even the smallest part of the luck you still enjoy? This very place which is banishment to you is home to those who live here. So nothing is miserable except when you think it so, and vice versa, all luck is good luck to the man who bears it with equanimity. No one is so happy that he would not want to change his lot if he gives in to impatience.
Such is the bitter-sweetness of human happiness. To him that enjoys it, it may seem full of delight, but he cannot prevent it slipping away when it will. You are led astray by error and ignorance.
I will briefly show you what complete happiness hinges upon. If I ask you whether there is anything more precious to you than your own self, you will say no. So if you are in possession of yourself you will possess something you would never wish to lose and something Fortune could never take away. If he does not know it, what kind of happiness can there be in the blindness of ignorance?
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And so a continuous fear prevents him being happy. And if he thinks the possibility of losing it a matter for indifference, then the good whose loss can be borne with such equanimity must be small indeed. Yet we know that many men have sought the enjoyment of happiness through death and even through suffering and torment. It seems that the happiness which cannot make men unhappy by its cessation, cannot either make them happy by its presence.
Though thunderous winds resound And churn the seething sea, Hidden away in peace And sure of your strong-built walls, You will lead a life serene And smile at the raging storm. What makes riches precious, the fact that they belong to you or some quality of their own? And which is preferable, the gold itself or the power conferred by hoarded wealth? Yet if being miserly always makes men hated, while being generous wins them popularity, it is by spending rather than hoarding that men win the better reputation.
Now, if something which is transferred to another cannot remain with its first owner, it is only when money is transferred to others in the exercise of liberality and ceases to be possessed that it becomes valuable. This same money, if it were ever collected together from wherever it lies among people into the possession of one man would make all the rest destitute of it. When you speak, your whole voice fills the ears of many hearers to an equal extent, but your riches cannot in the same way be shared equally among many without diminution. When riches are shared among many it is inevitable that they impoverish those from whom they pass.
How poor and barren riches really are, then, is clear from the way that it is impossible for many to share them undiminished, or for one man to possess them without reducing all the others to poverty. But if there is any special quality in this brilliance, it is in the light of the precious stones, not of men, so that I am astonished that men can admire them. Surely there is nothing devoid of life to give it movement, and devoid of structure, which living rational nature can justifiably consider beautiful?
Such things may be works of the Creator and may draw some minimal beauty from their own ornamental nature, but they are of an inferior rank to you as a more excellent creature, and cannot in any way merit your admiration. Creation is indeed very beautiful, and the countryside a beautiful part of creation. The fact that flowers blossom in spring confers no distinction on you, and the swelling fullness of the autumn harvest is no work of yours.