Copyright © 2014 by Ralph F. Couey
Pictures and written content
It's been an odd summer, at least here in Virginia. While there have been some hot miserable days, most of the season has been comparatively temperate. Not that anybody is complaining. After the awful summer of 2012, this year was positively wonderful. Two weeks ago, I read that in Western Pennsylvania that the summer has been so cool that leaves were beginning to turn in mid-August, the earliest anyone can remember that happening.
I enjoy the changing seasons. Every three months, the world changes in so many remarkable ways. As they cycle through their assigned three month span, they drive the clock of my life.
Each season has its charms, and we fill that time with the events that give them meaning for us. But everyone has a favorite time of the year, and we are approaching the season that makes my year.
Autumn ends the hot, sticky summer days and velvety nights of summer, replacing the thick, humid air with an atmosphere that is refreshingly cool. The milky white sky of summer has become one of a vibrant cobalt blue, and in the night sky is suddenly dense with starlight. The cooler temperatures restore a person's energy, making outside activities a joy.
But the best part of autumn is, of course, the leaves. As the chlorophyll is withdrawn from the leaves, they revert to what science tells us are their natural colors. Thus gradually, usually around early October, what was green begins to show vibrant reds, vivid golds, and other hues for which I have no name but are lovely just the same. I try to spend time in the woods during this month because the smell of the dying leaves as my feet rustle them is to me the perfume of the season. I can't really describe the smell, and despite the best efforts of Yankee Candles, I haven't yet come across anything man-made that comes close. I've always been partial to bright colors and maybe that is the reason for my love of Fall. But I don't try to diagnose it. I just try to enjoy it.
But for every pleasure, it seems a price must be exacted. And that penalty is time. The days grow ever shorter, which means that whatever time I can spend outside must be cherished. I can't allow myself to become lost in the "have-to-dos" and "gotta-be-theres" and be distracted from the brilliant artistry that decorates the landscape. I feel compelled to take time to be in the forest because I know that these days of beauty are numbered by the implacable forces of Earth's orbit. All too soon, the inviting coolness will turn to biting cold, and the last of the leaves fall to the ground and we are left with a world of brown until the snows of winter cover the land.
It would be nice to be able to put those wonderful days of October in a box, or a bottle to be taken out and enjoyed from time to time. But a big part of the enjoyment is the anticipation leading up to it, and the knowledge that it's not going to last. Because I live for October, October is the one month in which I am most alive.
Time marches on, as they say, and in this my 59th year of life I have become so much more aware of the dwindling cycles which I will be able to enjoy. Knowing that I may be starting the last 20 of my autumns fills me with not only sadness, but also a sense of urgency. I must live these remaining seasons, cherishing them and taking note of each passing day, not letting a single one go to waste.
Fall will end, as all seasons must. I know that a part of me will mourn that passing. But as I endure the following 11 months, I will allow the anticipation build because I know that waiting for those 31 incredible days is a big part of what makes them so wonderful, so much a season for the heart.
"I should be over it now I know
It doesn't matter much how old I grow
I hate to see October go."