Right now the world seems topsy-turvy. It feels as if the light has been dimmed and we’re at risk of losing our way. But autumn is a brisk reminder that change will come.
My own relationship with autumn has been a fickle one. As a youth, I loved the fall. It brought with it the familiar smell of burning leaves, the return of Saturday afternoon high school football games and the renewal of friendships interrupted by summer.
Autumn engages all our senses. Apples hang low in the orchards, crisp and tart to the taste, and after an early morning rain, the smell of fall dampness fills the air. Mountainsides are splashed with color and overhead geese in V-formation squawk goodbye.
I moved to Vermont in mid-life – and while mesmerized by the dazzle of autumn colors here, I soon learned that the season is also a prelude to the long cold night of winter isolation. Recently, however, I’ve developed a new appreciation of the season.
Ernest Hemingway noted that in autumn you expect to be sad, because a part of you dies with the season. “The leaves” he wrote, “fall from the trees and their branches [are] bare against the wind and cold, wintery light.” But he also acknowledged the hope of the season, that “you knew there would always be spring, as you knew the river would flow again after it was frozen.”
It’s the same message singer/songwriter Sam Cooke gave us when he sang “I know a change is gonna come ...”
Life and nature are marked by cycles. Leaves in autumn fall to mulch the earth and the wind spreads seeds that in spring will bring new life. This fall especially, that message resonates – and helps me hang on no matter how deep my despair over world events becomes.
Autumn is about more than negative change and loss. There’s actually solace in autumn’s message about the predictability of change and the hope that predictability offers.
We will survive winter’s night and awaken to the buds of spring. That is after all, the hope of the seasons, the gift of autumn.