A fire crackles in the hearth of my fireplace on this chilly, November Saturday. The thick gray clouds occlude the weak autumn sun casting a dull pall on the morning. A slight, but cold northern breeze sways the boughs of the maple trees in my front yard. The leaves are only just beginning to rust and pale. Only a light coating of the fallen lay scattered across my still green lawn.
Like a house guest delayed at the train station (and carrying too much baggage), autumn is late this year. Summer extended its reach all the way through October – holding the door closed. My children and I rang neighbors’ doorbells and gleefully shouted “Trick or treat!” without the need of jackets.
But summer is gone now. The warmth no longer lingers. Stern and pensive autumn has arrived. She will be brief this year; staying no longer than a month before winter stalks in and settles in for a long stay.
But I’ll enjoy autumn while she’s here. She has always been my favorite season. She’s a comfortable time – a time for chopping wood, raking leaves, and putting up storm windows. The frivolity of summer has been put away with my shorts and t-shirts. Out come my sweaters and jackets. Out comes my brain.
Autumn slows us enough to allow for contemplation. As the trees begin to shed and the leaves die a colorful death – what better time to think of your own mortality? What better time to reflect on family? Autumn has that wonderful grounding quality to remind us that we just temporary travelers in this world.
Autumn is a time for poetry. One of my favorite poems about this season is by William Cullen Bryant, who fell into the winter of his own life in 1878. Bryant (despite being a lawyer) has a gentle side and you can feel the power of his melancholy musings in his beautiful poem “October.” This is a poem that I think captures of essence of autumn.
By William Cullen Bryant
AY, thou art welcome, heaven's delicious breath! When woods begin to wear the crimson leaf,
And suns grow meek, and the meek suns grow brief
And the year smiles as it draws near its death. Wind of the sunny south! oh, still delay
In the gay woods and in the golden air,
Like to a good old age released from care,
Journeying, in long serenity, away.
In such a bright, late quiet, would that I
Might wear out life like thee, 'mid bowers and brooks
And dearer yet, the sunshine of kind looks,
And music of kind voices ever nigh;
And when my last sand twinkled in the glass,
Pass silently from men, as thou dost pass.