I awoke at 6:30 and wouldn’t have been surprised if the clock said 3:30 am. It was that dark. Coming home from school on Friday, I already had to put my lights on by 6 pm. It’s late October and Autumn is upon is. And I love it.
I always have. Even as a kid, there was something about the crisp air, the crunch of leaves, the smell of leaves, the darkening days and the three best holidays around the bend. I loved the color of the leaves, I loved raking leaves, I loved jumping into the pile of leaves I raked, I loved spinning around in the wide open spaces of the nearby park trying to catch falling leaves. Occasionally, I was treated to a harvest moon. How to describe it? There was just a sense of magic in the air, a different thickness to time, a different weight to space.
I couldn’t have named it back then, but perhaps, just perhaps, these heightened sensations came of a sense of mortality. The dying leaves, the dying of the light, the spirits at Halloween visiting from the other world— nothing like the tangible signs of impermanence to make you sit up and take notice just a few inches sharper.
When I started reading haiku in college, it was the Autumn poems that most moved me. Indeed, the whole Japanese sense of this fleeting and floating world was no where better expressed in these odes to Autumn. Often a tinge of melancholy, but not quite sadness or depression, sometimes bordering on heaviness of spirit, but more the awareness of life’s brevity and feeling of attuning to the precious jewel of each moment bequeathed us.
Even though San Francisco is woefully short of the Eastern Falls I grew up, having few deciduous trees, the sensation persists. I felt it today, a sense of inward turning that has not visited for awhile, but wholly familiar and welcome, truly an old friend. Fall for me is settling into an evening at home with low light with Dickens in hand and Chopin in the air. Garrison Keillor’s radio meditations are a good backdrop to a hearty soup, an old Jimmy Stewart movie a perfect capper to an evening. I find myself more warm toward fellow humans (election madness notwithstanding), some sense that we’re about to hunker down together to whether a winter (even a mild San Francisco one) and we need each other a bit more than on those careless sunny summer days. And when Chopin hits the crystal minor melodies of the Nocturnes, the night wraps itself around me like a warm blanket with a grandparent smell, reminds me that amidst all the madness of the human experiment, there is a spot always reserved for us to curl up together on the easy chair with a glass of hot cider and the dog curled up by the fire.
We are often so insulated from the weather and often gratefully so. And yet these ancient cycles sing on in our blood and keep the verb of our beings active and flowing and changing. “Whether the weather be cold, or whether the weather be hot, We’ll weather the weather, whatever the weather, whether we like it or not.” (A great Orff speech piece, by the way). Well, I like it and rather than set myself against it, I love to feel it taking me back to the old familiar homes of my childhood and indeed, my whole life.