Fall seems to be taking its own sweet time falling this year. I still have a yellow lily blooming in my yard long after the frosts should be well behind us.
Still, I feel my body, heart, and mind settling in for the darker season. Some changes are already apparent. The hours of daylight have noticeably lessened. Brown pine needles swirl in windy currents as they drift from the trees. And of course the foliage colors have changed and continue to change. I find myself burrowing into the covers when the alarm goes off in the morning. Even more, I sense within a different pace, a more quiet and contemplative posture. My more poetic soul is stirred in these months.
When I was a child, my mother and I used to collect the most beautiful maple leaves we could find. Then Mom would iron them between pieces of waxed paper to preserve their brilliance. When I grew up, I followed the tradition with my own son, taping our waxed leaves to windows where the light could emphasize the feast of color. Sometimes I mailed my leaves to family and friends who lived far from New England to give them a hint of what we were seeing.
But I have learned waxed leaves are a poor substitute for the real thing. And anyway, they, too, fade and turn dull.
In my mind, nothing can truly capture, forever, a New England autumn – not waxed leaves, not photography, not art, not words. Autumn is temporary, fleeting; it slips from our grasp. But we can carry the memory of it in our hearts and minds by living through it – letting our bodies soak up the foliage colors, the sound of kicking up leaves, the smell of decaying vegetation, and the feel of newly crisp, cold air.
We have our autumns. Whether we live in New England or not, yes, we have our autumns. Times when we shed what once served. Times when we sense the slowing down of age. Times when we witness death moving in. Times when we are grateful for the new nourishment that comes when the old has been mixed into the even older and turned into fertile soil for new growing.
Times of quiet and contemplation.
I know people who don’t like the autumn, no matter how beautifully the trees deck themselves out. Such folks feel melancholy in the gathering shadows and the growing cold. I can understand how fall can evoke melancholy feelings – particularly if one has, as I do, some sad anniversaries at this time of year.
But I don’t feel melancholy so much as I feel thoughtful and pensive. More I feel awed by the earth’s cycles. I welcome such a colorful, flamboyant reminder of my numbered days, and I turn my soul toward contemplation and welcome quiet. Gathering darkness offers me a particular restfulness and comfort.
May these darkening days be gentle for you and full of insight, wisdom, and warm, quiet comfort.