By Guest Blogger Renee Skudra
I am thinking about literature as I often do on a Sunday afternoon. More specifically, I’m thinking about Oscar Wilde’s quote “And all at Once, Summer collapsed into fall.” It seems to me that Fall suddenly made its presence known with a strong and imperious will. It showered us with vivid colors and gorgeous views – full of detail, at the same time minute, graphic and accurate in its seasonal portents. I was born in the autumn season on September 17th, the same day that the U.S. Constitution was signed. Plus, this is the same date of the Battle of Antietam, the nation’s bloodiest war. My Civil War historian son remarks wryly. I attribute my fondness for autumn perhaps because I was fortuitously born then.
A quote from someone named Lauren Destefano, who I do not know, exactly captures my same sentiments: “Fall has always been my favorite season. The time when everything bursts with its last beauty, as if nature had been saving up all year for the grand finale.” I think of a phrase from the movie All That Jazz when its principal dancer yells “showtime”. That too is how I feel about this season. All you have to do is look at the spectacle of fall and it will move your emotional compass into high appreciative gear. Plus, you’ll likely grab your cell phone to memorialize a few choice photos of the vibrant landscapes extant everywhere.
A glance at my dictionary tells me that the word autumn is from the French “automne”. The word didn’t enjoy common usage until the 18th century. It occurs between the end of September and into December in the Northern Hemisphere. It is characterized by the shedding of leaves from deciduous trees who, like plants, are winding down their cycle of growth. The air is filled with transformation – shorter days, cooler temperatures, changing color of the leaves. One might say that this is Nature’s last hoorah before retiring into winter’s severe and quiescent mood.
Symbolically though there is another story here. Autumn is a time of gathering, storing, and preparing for the cold and isolation that the next season will usher in. While I’m in Trader Joe’s scooping up all the seasonal fall products and pumpkin-things galore, I consider that fall is a good time for rest, reflection, awareness, and mindfulness. Our family prepares carefully for the longer and colder nights. Yet, we relish the crisp autumn air, the getting one of my mom’s hand-knit bulky scarves, and jackets so big you can get lost in them. Along with boots that we bought for a pittance at Tractor Trailer in Turlock, California, black rubbery things meant for mucking out animal stalls.
I love Emily Bronte’s quote that “Every leaf speaks bliss to me, fluttering from the autumn tree”. I feel precisely the same. Though she only wrote one novel, Wuthering Heights, she had a mind keen and sharp as a razor. Her celebration of nature hits home with particular force this autumn. There have been many challenges this year but I know that autumn symbolizes newness and I’m finally ready for that. Along with a piece of home-made pumpkin pie, that a Mississippi girlfriend brought by “to cut your cravings.”
My son and I have raked piles and piles of leaves, some crested with pine cones and tennis balls. Thanks to our Bichon Frise whom has lackadaisically placed them there. Most of the leaves have scattered now, no thanks to the high winds. I’ve set out an infinite number of acorns for the squirrels. They grab them up with deliberate intention, sometimes tussling with each other in their effort to make a score. Our pumpkin, bought from a Jamestown church, sits on my porch steps. It gleams with an almost religious fervor in the dying autumn light. I step outside to try and catch a falling leaf because I’ve heard the superstition that it is good luck.
The poet Keats was right about this time of year being “the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness.” I’m pondering that sentiment when the phone rings and a Chinese friend informs me to light white candles against the growing darkness of the season or, alternatively, to place white flowers on my table. She tells me that white is the color of autumn in the Chinese tradition.
For me the Fall is the time when I concentrate on nudging the stories out of me that need telling. The beauty of nature is the exact tonic that provides the inspiration. A neighbor drops by and I show him some photos I’ve taken of the exuberant reds, oranges, and yellows that dominate the trees of Lindley Park street. He says, simply, “Don’t that beat all?” In that moment, silence is golden, and I am grateful for, however briefly, we have touched souls.