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The Painful Joy of Autumn

I wake to a warm wind blowing from the south.  Change rides its fickle breezes.

It is mid-October, and the trees are beginning to don their finery, cloaks of magentas and sunset reds, the brightest of yellows, the greenish hues that shift toward gold, a color for which there is no adequate name. 

This last color is what casts its luminosity on our crabapple.  A sudden gust shakes its branches, gathers two-thirds of the falling foliage, and deposits it in an undulating layer across our yard.  The remaining third hangs steadfast, ignoring the gentle call of gravity to join the rest below.  In moments the cloak becomes a shawl, delicate and transparent.  I feel a sense of awe move through my body and my mind, not unlike the breeze that moves over my skin, its flow gentle and graceful.  The gust has woven a magic spell in the remnants of gold; surely this transformation signifies something far deeper than the end of a season.

Is this something that happens as we get older, this reverence for a magnificence cloaked by the mundane?  Or truly, does the chroma of autumn change over the years? I don’t know.  This year, however, I am distinctly aware of the season’s beauty, which—I’m ashamed to admit–I’d taken for granted in my younger years.  Of seed flags flying full staff from the stalks of wild grasses, shimmering gold in the early morning light.  Of leaves more brilliant than ever before, fiery and flagrant in their autumnal glory.  Of the darkest blue in the sky directly overhead, suggesting a blackness of the unknown space just beyond the boundary.   The space described as the Great Mystery.

As my gaze returns to the earth, I recall with a smile how much Mom loved spring.  It is an easy season to fall in love with, filled with rain and new life, the bright reds and purples of tulips, the sunlight yellow of the daffodils promising fertility in a dark fecund soil.  Spring is a season of dreams and dreaming.

But I love autumn.  Its complexity holds more allure, with its cold winds and skittering leaves, the trees and shrubs splendid in their traveling clothes as they make way for winter.  Fall is a season of recollection and remembering.

I look at the branches and follow their limbs upward, imagining their fingers interlaced in prayer as they reach toward the mystery contained in the darkness beyond. And I do the same, lifting my arms in reverence to that same Great Mystery.

I close my eyes, release my breath, and feel a painful joy that my life has experienced such overwhelming beauty.    

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