Fall comes late to the South. Already the Aspens, whose golden stands briefly spot the steep slopes of the Rockies, have lost their glitter. A sickle-shaped swath reaching from eastern Maine down into to the mountains of North Carolina and then up through the heart of the Midwest is in full color—red, yellow and burnt orange.
Here, there are the first intimations of the riotous splendor to come. Our cool, sleeping-weather nights and a dusting of fallen dead-brown or yellow leaves are the early casualties of the season. But for the most part we remain embowered beneath late summer’s deep green and still transpiring leaves.
It is a time for contemplation—about what has been and what is to come. The fortunate among us will (or now) live to see a
… teeming autumn, big with rich increase, Bearing the wanton burden of the prime, Like widow’d wombs after their lords’ decease. (Sonnet 97, Wm. Shakespeare.)
The season is a fulcrum balancing past, present and future. Still, relentless time pushes forward. Everyday experience does not inhabit a quantum world where we perceive our place only when we measure out the days. Instead, each is a tipping point into eternity. Blithe or bitter, our spirits look back and forth in this echoing space between lost summers and certain winters.
The harvest comes to an end. We plant hearty kales and pansies. Assiduous gardener friends bring us—or unload—their innumerable gourds. (Beware of friends bearing vegetable gifts!) On All Hallows Eve, children scream in delighted anticipation of treats and sometimes in fear of the ghosts they, or we, conjure. Who can forget Scout’s blind, frightful flight towards home or Jem’s broken body—neither effected by Arthur “Boo” Radley but instead by real evil in the world.
And so it goes. Autumn brings on ambivalence. Was I right or wrong? Was he or she right or wrong? And even, what is right and what is wrong? There may be good historical reasons that we hold elections in late fall. This timing in the mostly agrarian society of the late Eightieth Century made sense, but I suspect that somewhere in the consciousness of that age, or any other, there lurks the persistent, reflective mood of the season. It is a time for grave decisions.
Remembrance and desire haunt the fading day, and mellow fruitfulness adds comfort to the growing shade. We think on rising spring and high summer and await the barren the winter. This is the still point of life, between this world and that of grace.