I don’t know what other people think, but there is something very special about this time of year. It’s a wonderful feeling to awaken to a beautiful sunny autumn day. Most all the leaves have fallen and only those glorious tamarack offer that last golden blast of color. After weeks of rainy grey, the tree line across the field, set against one of our deep blue skies, is truly a “sight for sore eyes”. Even the Vikings on television can’t make me stay inside on a day like this.
Late season “outdoor chores” make my spirits zing. Hmmm… How about washing a few windows before hanging those storms? And what about these mums that might winter over if I make the effort to bundle them up? I just finished putting the last of the brussels sprouts in the freezer, so the garden is done for another year, except for that last row of beets I could grind up for a batch of that “super-food beet powder” I heard about on TV. Oh, and then of course there’s the wood pile — popple cut from our woods last winter, but not yet split. We’ll burn it mixed with well-dried ash that’s already in the woodshed.
All these tasks have just rewards. A crystal clear view of the sunrise out the living room window is not only a wonder to behold but also produces a great sense of satisfaction. And although I don’t like to say “adieu” to the final vestiges of life in the flowerbeds, I know that I will appreciate any survivors come spring. No need to justify the investment of time and energy in growing and preserving homegrown veggies. The scrumptious tastes of summer that are set out on the supper table each evening between now and next year’s harvests will be indescribably delicious!
Sitting inside the house for any length of time makes me sleepy or lazy, or both. To change that I only need to rise, put on my jacket and step out the back door. With just that first breath of fresh air, my blood gets circulating. I feel invigorated! The woodpile suddenly becomes my Fitness Club. I don’t have to drive anywhere, and the membership fee is cheap! Since giving up the axe and maul years back, it comes to about $2.79/an hour, the cost of gas for the splitter. For a hefty hour’s workout coupled with another half-hour of stacking thrown in for free, that’s one helluva good deal!
Then there are all the sounds and smells…. A hint of leaf mold as I stroll around the yard; the scent of bam (balsam poplar) and balsam as the logs break in half on the splitter’s wedge; the “whoosh” of raven wings overhead as he dives in to investigate my stacking job; jays squawking to friends about some sunflower seeds found strewn beneath the feeders. There’s a “POW!” from the neighbor’s place as he sights in his deer rifle, and then a holler from the back door that it’s time for a popcorn break! But you know what I love the best? All the memories that drift by on the stream of thoughts that accompany solitary work.
Fall has always been a time when the past comes calling. Like that of my pre-trampoline childhood in southeast Michigan, where tall hardwoods with huge leafy crowns produced mountains of colored leaves. We’d rake them into gigantic mounds, perfect for jumping. Oh, that crackle and pungent scent of maple! Or the one where our hungry gang of kids would scavenge for fallen apples from under our neighbor’s trees, enticed by their rich, musty smell and taste of super-ripe appleness.
Fall also evokes feelings of loss, triggered, I suppose, by the passing of one season and the boding of the next. It was September when I lost my much too young daddy who “got sick and then just disappeared”. October was a spooky time as the days shortened and ghosts began to inhabit shadowy corners. And November was forever marred by the assassination of John Kennedy, the first Catholic President elected in the U.S. His win brought elation to my Irish Catholic family, his death another wave of crushing grief to a little girl of ten. Fifty-five years later, I still do not forget. Yes, the autumn months are a powerfully moving time of year, on all the senses and dimensions of my Self.
Fall also has significance on the levels of “community and country” because it is on the first Tuesday of November that “we, the people” celebrate the privilege of our democracy and head for the polls. We cast our ballots on Election Day to select the people who will represent us and our core values, at every level of government — town, county, state and nation. This is as important to me as all the other aspects of this special season, as necessary to my survival as my garden and my woodpile. Influenced by the values of my immigrant grandparents, I do not take my government, its freedoms or its benefits, for granted. They instilled a deep appreciation for my right to vote and I have exercised that right in every election since turning eighteen. After 47 years, with gratitude and a spirit of civic duty, the thrill of participating in the electoral process has never left me. And this year, at such a critical time for our country and for our world, I am more on fire than ever to show up and weigh in on the future.
It is worthwhile to take notice of the ways in which autumn uniquely touches our individual and collective lives. I’m taking time this year to engage fully in the many events, ritual experiences, memories and emotions present at this special time of year. I’m examining my priorities and am ready to rise above the chatter and decide what really matters. After all, winter is right around the corner.