Autumn stirs me like no other time of the year. This is a deep, elemental resonance I feel, working its way through whatever it is one might call a soul. There is no answer to the “why” and there is only the ebb and flow of these feelings, every year. But none more than this one.
“Can’t I just go back to that one moment,” I find myself thinking. I ruminate on a memory of something shatteringly beautiful and life-changing, and I dream of places far away. In between I navigate the present, and seek out crunchy leaves, hot cider, something with pumpkin or apples or pears, and I dream of all things warm and cozy.
Autumn is the dreamland to which I run throughout the year, in my mind, if not in reality. Again, there is no “why” but I do think it had something to do with growing up in East Tennessee in a semi-rural area. The shivers of excitement working through me after the last of the blackberries were done along the railroad track…the wind rustling as the leaves turned russet and scarlet and amber and burgundy and soft brown. My home in the country had many tree species, so I could look up at any moment and see golden beech leaves, sugar maple, red maple, oak, dogwood, redbud, sumac…
There was a quiet that descended on the land, and the last warm green-gold of the fields gave way to a honey-colored undulation. The briars dying, I could wade through the flora wearing jeans, and find treasures that summer had chosen to hide from me. Sometimes I might hear a chainsaw or a hammer echoing over the valley. Later in the season, brush pile bonfires were common. I remember the awe of watching a leaf and stick pile flare up into the sky, feeling the heat on my cheeks from a healthy distance. Soon there would be barren trees, grey of bark and looking softly brushed from a distance. Woodsmoke would thread its way to and fro between the hills and mountains of Appalachia….a hint of winter and the long shadows it brought.
But before then…the magic time. The time of long, quiet walks down the railroad tracks, where I could enact scenes from my stories aloud, or cry silently, or test my balance walking on the rails, depending on my mood. Or maybe I would find little treasures to take home: railroad spikes, quartz, cast-off detritus I could make something with.
And now, today, I live far away from those soft hills. I live in Southern California, and autumn is still to be found. Pumpkin farms and apples combine with a moody sea and the threat of wildfire, ever present when the Santa Ana winds kick up. Here, the light staggers me, and entraps me in its amber enchantment. Still, I feel that excitement, that sense of longing. And quite suddenly I realize, I am not longing for another moment, I am longing for now to last.
Image Credit: Autumn Berries Photo by J. Dianne Dotson Copyright 2019