Monday, October 21, 2013

Autumn Leaves

Musing on Autumn…

It’s getting colder outside.  And it’s happening much faster than I anticipated.  I knew that this day would come.  But having just moved from Los Angeles, I know that I was incredibly and hopelessly spoiled by mild daily weather.  I’d forgotten what a year with aggressive, churning seasons feels like. 

Hello, Autumn.

It’s been a while.  Seven years to be exact.  Hello again, season of nostalgia, season of change.  Season of warmer clothing, marching band, and high school musical rehearsals.  Season of pumpkin heads, pumpkin beer, and pumpkin lattes.  Season of apple picking, apple cider, and cider donuts.  Season of crunching leaves, seeing your breath, rosy noses and cheeks, of orange, yellow, brown, and red.  Season of growing older, and going to sleep.  Season of letting go.
First Cider Donut Ever

When I first moved to Los Angeles, I used to say the thing I missed most about the Midwest was autumn.  After a few years of living, I would continue to say it, but to be honest, I think I forgot what I was missing.

Most everything about autumn this year is familiar… the way the air smells and feels.  There’s a little bite in the air that comes from the kind of damp cold you find here in the Midwest.  I can immediately recall those days when as kids, my siblings and I would play in piles of fallen leaves.  The bits of leaves would get trapped in our hair, catching in the cracks around our sleeves and collars, and stuck to the bottoms of our shoes.  I’m struggling to find a perfect way to describe the smell of autumn leaves, actually, I can’t even find a mediocre way, but if you have smelled them, they are stamped in your olfactory memory forever.  It was cold outside, but that’s not the kind of thing you make note of as a child.  You only realized it was cold out there when you came inside and the ends of your fingers and toes turned red hot as they start to warm up.

During autumn, the leaves of trees turn into some of the most vibrant colors you can find in nature.  You breathe in this beauty, hear the loud silences between the crunching beneath your feet… forgetting for one moment, or never even realizing to begin with, that what you’re witnessing is death.  Breathtaking, perfect, fragrant, crisp, clear death.  As life drains from the leaves, they show us jewel-bright colors, they reflect the glow of the sun with radiant warmth.

Imagine we could see human life in the same way.  Imagine if we made a special trip to visit the dying, not in the tentative, fearful and sad way we do, but with anticipation, wonder, and awe.  Imagine we embraced our own “leaving” the way we embrace the leaves of autumn.

People have been asking me whether I’m ready for winter this year.  And my answer is “no, not yet.”  I’m actually a little embarrassed to admit how hard I’m taking this autumn chill.  But as I wrote a couple weeks ago, I’m really trying to live here right now, so instead of worrying about the inevitable frozen days ahead, I’m trying to let my favorite season hang around while keeping my eyes wide open.
Autumn Leaves is a popular oft-recorded standard which was originally a 1945 French song "Les feuilles mortes" (literally "The Dead Leaves"). 

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