Autumn is one of the most beautiful times of the year, but, given our mild weather, it is not a season we Californians fully celebrate. We seem to slide from summer to Indian Summer and then suddenly, it’s overcast and rainy. Well, sometimes rainy. We’ve been in a severe drought the past few years and are beginning to forget what rain is.
A long time past, I lived in Pennsylvania for almost a year. They definitely embrace autumn. I have a vivid memory of stepping outside to retrieve the mail, an apple in hand. I could smell the dampness of an early rain as I walked into the crisp fall air, surrounded by flurries of falling orange, red and yellow leaves. Walking down the long drive to the mailbox, I bit into the crisp, cold, so very sweet apple and in that moment knew that it was the taste of autumn.
Last spring, I moved to the Sierra foothills, an area that does believe in autumn despite the drought. With the lack of water, the leaves are struggling to change colors although, as you can see, there are still some very vibrant red, yellow and orange leaves decorating the landscape. While I haven’t found an apple quite as crisp as the Pennsylvania one, the memory remains and surfaces now and again as I walk amid the color and dried leaves swirling to the ground.
For me, autumn brings the end of another cycle and another year. It’s a time of quiet reflection and review. Am I on the path I supposed to be walking or simply wandering in the woods enjoying the view?
This is the first time in my life where there has been little drive or passion. No to-do list; no have-to list. A blank piece of paper. I always assumed there was a reason for one’s existence, une rasion d’être, but now, at this stage, that too seems to have gone missing.
There’s an admitted calm and bit of disconnect from the more grueling aspects of life. Perhaps it’s a function of age; perhaps a function of location. Nonetheless, the mind wanders and wonders although, for the life of me, I couldn’t tell you what about.
A few weeks ago, I went in search of an artificial Christmas tree, as my last one looked a bit too sad last year. I stood next to another woman, about my age, as we evaluated the artificial forest before us.
She asked what I was thinking.
I was honest. I’m looking at the prices, wondering how many more Christmases I’ll have, and whether the investment will be worth it.
She smiled and said she was thinking something similar. I remember my mother teasing about getting too old to buy green bananas. Maybe she wasn’t teasing as much as I thought.
My friend Bill puts things in a slightly different way. He says to get a long measuring tape, measure out one inch for each year you’ve lived and then add another inch for each year you hope to live. It’s certainly a sobering exercise.
Autumn is indeed a gentle time, and at the same time, there is a chill in the air bringing the promise that the next season is on the cusp of arriving. Sometimes, not often, I wonder what it will bring.
In the meantime, lacking a really crisp, cold, so very sweet apple, I think I’ll put an apple in the oven to bake while I watch the leaves just a little longer.