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Husband, father, grandfather, friend...a few of the roles acquired in 62 years of living.  I keep an upbeat attitude, loving humor and the singular freedom of a perfect laugh.  I don't let curmudgeons ruin my day; that only gives them power over me.  Having experienced death once, I no longer fear it, although I am still frightened by the process of dying.  I love to write because it allows me the freedom to vent those complex feelings that bounce restlessly off the walls of my mind; and express the beauty that can only be found within the human heart.

Sunday, November 02, 2014

The Blessings of Autumn

Copyright © 2014 by Ralph F. Couey
Except quoted and cited portions.

"I'm so glad we live in a world where there are Octobers!"
--Lucy Maud Montgomery
"Anne of Green Gables"

October has always been, for me, the best of times.  There are a multitude of reasons, cool weather, football, the leaves, and that indefinable yet familiar snap in the air.  I think that I only endure the other eleven months just to get to that special one.  The worst part is that once it has arrived, it never stays around long enough.  October is that houseguest who will never outstay their welcome.

I try to spend as much time as I can outdoors in that month.  In the first days, there are subtle patches of color here and there.  As the days pass, those patches meld into a chorus of bright, vivid colors lit by the rays of the bright butter-colored sun, under a sky of spectacular cobalt blue.  True, the days are growing shorter, but the nights respond with their own kind of magic.  As the haze of summer vanishes, the stars appear, far more numerous even in the city.  Each one shines with a sharp light, giving a soft, silvery touch to the landscape.

October is when I feel most alive.  I wish I could better articulate what I mean by that statement.  Suffice it to say that fall in general and October in particular stirs the passions within that often as not lie dormant during the rest of the year.

Last week, Cheryl and I took a day and drove out to Shenandoah National Park.  We timed this visit perfectly, as the leaves were at or near-peak.  We entered the Park at Thornton Gap, where US 211 crosses Skyline Drive, the main road through the park.

The colors were pretty enough, but as we traveled north, the colors got even more intense.  The view from the overlooks were spectacular, the valley floor bright with reds and golds.

Cheryl was hobbled by a broken foot, but I took the opportunity at the pullouts to get out of the car, take pictures, and just soak it all in.  At one point, we rounded a curve to find a grove of trees showing a cloak of spectacular gold.  There were several cars pulled over, so radiant and beautiful was the sight.

It was a day for wonder and appreciation, and we enjoyed it to the hilt as we felt the burdens of care and worry slide away.  

In the days since, the colors have spread down the flanks of the Blue Ridge and flowed across the valleys and piedmont.  We had a day or so of brilliant colors before the back end of a nor'easter shot 50-mph winds across the region, denuding many of the trees.  November is here now, and in not too many days, the leaves will all fall, leaving the bare branches to wait for the inevitable snows of winter.

But October is not just about the whole month.  It is a series of moments that imprint themselves on the parchment of memory, snippets which will flash back to the conscious, bringing with them that marvelous feeling, even if only for a few moments.

It was a sunny day and I was hiking on a trail.  The forest was filled with that special aroma of dead and dying leaves.  The air was delightfully cool, and the breeze filled the forest with the sound of its passing.  Looking down, I saw the thick carpet of red and gold leaves covering the path. As I walked along, my feet were stirring the leaves, filling the air with that unforgettable swishing sound.  It was a  moment that will stay with me for as long as I live. Suddenly, I was 12 once again, swishing fall leaves just to hear the sound.

It was, and will always be a special kind of joy.

I should be over it now, I now
It doesn't matter much
How old I grow....
I hate to see October go.

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