Pages fall from the calendar like crimson and gold leaves from the maple on a windy fall day. Days blur into weeks into years.
It is early morning. I am writing well before anyone else stirs. Even the dogs are still asleep. I stepped outside to gauge the day. This morning no crow, no owl, no swallow is awake. Only the crickets and locusts sing their songs, fully aware their time this season is short. Soon the honking geese will make their flight overhead, as they too make their preparations for the season.
Above the trees, at about 45 degrees is a splendid view of Orion. There is a gentle breeze, and a slight chill in the air. The low humidity allows an unfettered view of the sky. Being somehow ingrained in my memory, the position of certain stars in relationship to others causes me to scan beyond Orion and look directly overhead, and my gaze goes instinctively to the Pleiades, or the “seven sisters.” These are the eternal friends of winter, and an early morning fall sight. They tell of the seasons, and the changes to come.
What is meant by the fall of one’s life? Looking back over your shoulder will not bring back summer, or youth. Just as now is the fall of the year, your weekly columnist enters the fall of his life, and reflects.
Out of the warmth of summer and into the cool nights of fall, it is easy to contemplate the change of season coming. Hope springs eternal. Want and desire drive that hope, fed by a certain unfathomable comfort in knowing things will change, and if one is prepared, transition gracefully. Scenes of what was and what will play over and over in the mind’s eye.
The first real dark and chilly morning of the season reminds the writer how inevitable the journey. The ability to steel oneself, to prepare, to harden our being on this journey which is ultimately of our own choosing is the true measure of our readiness. Without tempering, the knife blade will hold no edge. Only by fire and even tempering will the edge remain true and sharp. The season progresses; change comes.
Autumn is the time when the vibrant colors of the blossoms of summer, and the green of the leaves give way to earthy tones--a certain maturity. It is a time for shedding those idealistic dreams of youth and concentrate on those things well rooted, more stable perhaps.
These ideas have added color to our lives, perhaps even some vibrancy, but these dreams are getting tired, warn, unfitting for those more mature. We begin to shed them, hunker down, and prepare for the coming season.
The leaves, first changing color and then falling represent our willingness to break current thought patterns and transition from summer. The leaves are not wasted however, they fall to the ground and are composted—our ideals—and become nourishment for our memories, our experiences.
As the leaves fall and leave the great tree bare, this absence of foliage exposes the beautiful form of the exposed trunk and branch structure of the tree. No longer shrouded in leaves, the tree is laid bare for all to see, to marvel, and to love. All of the extraneous things are gone—only the bare essence remains. The hulk is us, rooted firmly in the earth, with branches and crown spread upward embracing the heavens. Either we are vulnerable, or we are prepared.
First to arrive is a light frost, a warning, an alarm we must prepare ourselves for the coming season. Death, passing of friends and family, changes in our bodies, our minds and how we view things all arrive at the time of that first light frost.
This is when we must challenge our thinking, shed old ideals, and get acquainted with those principles and values which more realistically represent what we have become and what we hope to be. Fall is the time to accept those changes as part of life and become intimately aware of our changing principles.
Soon, a killing frost will arrive and take away those last vestiges of green, those most hardy plants, those stubborn ideals which linger, hard to dispose of, that perhaps are holding us back. The season has been prepared. It is only the last days of warmth of childhood breaking on the back of our necks which cause us to cling to those ideals, to not want to dispose of them, not yet, not quite.
Once that killing frost comes, we need to be prepared, to embrace those things which are coming. The autumn is a time for us to slow down, to reflect. Those leaves, those nuggets of knowledge and experience which have fallen to the ground are not wasted, but instead will be assimilated by the earth. They become our legacy, those things we leave here on earth; our works, our deeds, and perhaps even the job we did raising our children.
A certain inner peace comes to us ushered in by the spirit which speaks to us internally. While we really never stop learning, we have created the foundation of what we are and should listen to these inner urges, those signals that guide us. It is indeed our inner presence.
An unidentified bird in the timber makes his presence known. Cool morning open window sounds waft from the near and the far. A lone coyote wails in the distance. A certain persistent cricket makes his presence known. The season is nigh.
Until next time--
In to the Wind and this column are copyright 2011 Mike Gilchrist. Readers, feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org via email, or write to me at P.O. Box 255, Toledo, IA 52342.