“It troubled me with what I can only describe as the Idea of Autumn. It sounds fantastic to say that one can be enamored of a season, but that is something like what happened; and, as before, the experience was one of intense desire. And one went back to the book, not to gratify the desire (that was impossible–how can one possess Autumn?) but to reawake it.”
-C.S. Lewis, Surprised by Joy
Tomorrow is the first of autumn. I have always loved this season. November, the month I love most, is coming soon. My favorite colors are everywhere, deep, dark, and rich. I love a dreary grey sky, the darker the grey, the better; I love the clouds and fall rain. These are a few of the very brief reasons I give when defending fall, but if given the chance, I could talk your ear off about the season (for a perhaps unfortunate few, I already have). So I’ve written out my whys. I wrote, cut, pasted, pared down a sentence or two, added full paragraphs, and abridged a bit more. Trust me, you don’t have time to read the unabridged version.
Autumn evokes “memories” of times long since past and places states away, memories that I cannot possibly have experienced. It brings to my mind images of red school houses where the youngest children are reading from their primers, bushels of apples picked from harvest-ready orchards, hayrides that make your eyes itch and your nose run. Sadly, none of these were a part of my childhood autumns. I’ve lived in the same city since I was two; it’s not urban by any means, but it hasn’t been a small town in my lifetime and hasn’t wanted to. Its childlike desire to grow up into a big city probably contributed to the lackluster fall celebrations. But for me, such daydreams crop up at harvest time.
Autumn brings merriment and warmth, despite the growing bite in the air. You meet the occasional grinch who gets grumpier as Christmas nears, but folks are generally cheerier at this time of year. After all, the holidays are approaching. All Hallows’ Eve and Reformation Day round off October, Thanksgiving summons aprons, stuffings, and pies a month later, and Advent is the first spark of the magic of Christmastime. (Yes, I’ve celebrated Reformation Day. I went to a Lutheran church growing up. We marked the day with an annual Wurstfest). Keats wrote about the season in a letter to a friend: “How beautiful the season is now–How fine the air. A temperate sharpness about it. Really, without joking, chaste weather–Dian skies–I never liked stubble-fields so much as now–Aye better than the chilly green of the spring. Somehow, a stubble-field looks warm–in the same way that some pictures look warm. This struck me so much in my Sunday’s walk that I composed upon it.” What he composed was an ode, To Autumn; read it. I also recommend An Autumn Evening by Lucy Maud Montgomery. Any poet worth his salt ought to write on this fine season; such a wealth of imagery! This time of year calls out to every sense: the smell of woods outdoors and spices in the kitchen; the sounds of wind, branches creaking, rustling leaves, crunching leaves, rain on the front porch, geese honking; the tartness of cranberries, pumpkin everything, cider; the feeling of wind on your cheeks, the toasty warmth when you step inside, itchy wool blankets; and, oh! I could extol the sights, the colors for pages. Autumn affects everyone. Here I mean ‘affect’ in the older, much less casual sense of the word; it’s poignant. Autumn pulls at your heart. Unless you’re Ebenezer Scrooge, something about this season will make your chest swell with joy and wistful longing, even if you can’t name the source.
Autumn makes a man think more seriously. It brings a brisk chill to the air that either sends you indoors where you light a fire and open a book (it’s the natural progression of events), or it moves you to run to an open field and breathe deeply, allowing the cold air to fill your lungs. The sun is generally hidden behind a hazy blanket of clouds, the air is crisp, mornings are filled with fog, everything slows down… including thoughts. This season invites you to mull over its profoundness. Creation speaks in hushed tones; school starts up again; the weather is perfect for curling up with a book; and there is so much glory to behold that it can stop you in your tracks. I remember the autumn days walking on campus, I’d sometimes just have to stop walking and soak up the trees. Always filled me with wonder, and once entering a classroom, I was in the mood to hear a lecture or discuss literature. I don’t know the whys underneath that, but I attribute it to autumn-time. It’s perfect for reflecting on things bigger than oneself. Though the wind may be blustery, the silence is still. The murky skies often look as if they are about to weep. The whole scene strikes the soul with a sense of gravity. As the fall grows old, we are faced with the realness of mortality.
Autumn is big. Its clouds reign with an authority that is almost tangible in the wind. Those rich colors I love are all around, crimsons, ambers, aubergines, and burnt oranges; golden-hued leaves and gourds. These are the colors of gems. Autumn is regal. But as the season progresses further toward winter and nature starts dying, there’s a sense of power relinquished. Maybe I’m alone in this, but when all of creation, which displays so richly the glory and grandeur and majesty of God, starts dying, I am humbled. For if such splendor must waste away and wither into winter, then surely such small creatures as we must suffer the same.
I do hope you recognize the beauty God has bestowed on autumn, even if no other aspect of the season inspires you. Just slow down. Watch the sun gleam blood orange through the yellowing leaves as it begins to set. Watch the misty clouds drift about, blinking out stars in a purple sky one night. Get lost gazing into the rippling creek, if there’s one nearby. Love these days. They are splendid and fast-fading.