Came out from under the weather to be wholly in the weather and landed straight into the arms of Fall. I love summer, with its long nights and outdoor beckonings and immersion in the elements of sea, sand and sky, with its invitation to close the doors firmly to school and reawaken ancient impulses to walk freely on this good earth unencumbered by working responsibilities. But truth be told, my favorite season has always been Fall.
What is it about the Fall? As a kid, there was trying to catch the falling leaves spiraling down from the trees in the park, the vibrant leaf colors and satisfying leaf crunchings while walking, the raking of leaves that was more fun than the shoveling of snow and the mowing of lawns, the jumping in the pile of the raked leaves and their musty smell. In San Francisco, all of that is but a distant memory as the few deciduous trees we pass on 7th Avenue driving to school don’t really change colors until November (though some have started) and don’t fall until December.
But the constant of Fall, whether in San Francisco, Salzburg or Seoul, is that sense of turning inward. The days shorten (dark by 7:15 now), the chill in the air sends the shorts to the back of the closet and brings out the jeans and sweaters, the world closes into itself and invites reflection, the book read by the fire or the long dinner with the kitchen filled with good smells. It’s the time to throw another blanket on the bed and wrap oneself in deep dreams, to hunker down and cozy in and stay sleeping later on the weekends. There are fresh apples, the harvest of greens, pears instead of peaches and hearty soups with fresh-baked breads. The birds are packing their bags, the blackberries passing their peak on the vine, the ants marching one by one taking over from the mosquitoes. And of course, there is school, the re-gathering of children for the monumental task of carrying forth the culture and building our future.
I think I’m not alone in my love of the Fall. Japanese haiku poetry is organized by season and some of the best all seem to be gathered under Fall. Fall well expresses that poetic Japanese view of this fleeting world, it’s the turn in the path toward mortality, but always with the bittersweet edge of beauty. What better metaphor for dying than the leaf blazing forth in its final bold colors and then drifting to its death. In October Song, one of my favorite anthems to Fall, Robin Williamson of the Incredible String Band sings:
“The fallen leaves, they jewel the ground. They know the art of dying. And leave with joy, their gold-glad hearts, in the scarlet shadows lying.”
I felt the full feeling of Fall at the airport last night on my way to Portland. When we turn inward, we seek the comfort and company of our fellow folks preparing to face the long winter ahead. And so I felt that pleasant buzz of people gathering in the waiting area and the latent love of my neighbors started to rise up.
My Falls have certain milestones, ritual markers that remind me of the depth and breadth of life’s cycles and the invitation to wholly participate in the offering each season and time of year brings. It’s the time I turn to my annual Dickens book, read and re-read my whole adult life, the time getting on a plane to teach a one-day workshop in some U.S. city means a re-commitment and re-connection to my life’s work, the time of school and it’s fresh energy or the time of sitting down to write my next book on a break from school. There is the promise of Halloween to come and the annual Orff Conference that follows, the reminder to revisit my interior selves that have been constant companions, the chance to carry a book of poetry with me and wander aimlessly on my Monday off through a new San Francisco neighborhood.
And now it’s the time for me to begin my relationship with my daughter’s new home in Portland and oh, joy of all joys, be with my granddaughter Zadie. We already sang and danced last night and read books together and she amazed me with her song repertoire and ability to name the pictures in the alphabet book. More on her later, for now, just this homage to Fall and all the beauty it brings.