Though I am a summer girl, I will admit to having an affection for autumn. In the southland it begins with an understated change in the light. I appreciate the subtlety as the bold summer sunshine yields to a deep flaxen blush that casts a fertile glow over all earthly things. I delight as the muted summer breeze adopts a sharp edge that rustles across the sidewalk to pirouette with slowly falling dried leaves that toil and spin in fluid descent. The squirrels scamper at the base of the towering oak trees, voraciously packing acorns in their jowls, and the first curls of woodsmoke are met in gusty clouds by migratory birds plotting their course to more temperate lands. There is no season as poetic as early fall when the bounty of the ripe earth encourages the soul to drink in fully the crimson tones of nature before it gives way to the muted greys of winter. Even the language of fall is lush and indulgent.
Autumn is a time of equilibrium, when light and shadow and swelter and chill find rhythm. It’s a delicate waltz of life and death as the precious things of nature revealed in spring’s exuberance and summer’s innocence are threatened by a season that will usher in their demise. And while autumn begins to rob them of life, it also reveals the golden treasure of their beauty and dulcitude, the gift of a bountiful Creator. You see, the season of fall is actually the slow passing away of nature around us, but in the decay God reveals an exquisite tapestry of beauty. This is autumn grief. It is balance in sufficiency and emptiness, in affliction and gratitude, and in striving and stillness. It is the slow unveiling of the other side of grief, a reminder of what it is to live in the fullness of possibility, meaning and hope.
The earth’s autumnal transformation is without measure. The forest becomes a symphony of copper and crimson, a stunning and palpable transition from summer to fall. The passages of grief are not as clear but they are equally remarkable. The grace of God, the Season Changer himself, is evident in the different paths to mourning and in the return to resilience that is autumn grief. And as I look around at the unfolding of summer to fall, I can see the seeds of the future. Planted in loss they are curious, expectant and patient – for something new is coming our way, because surely the delight of harvest belongs to those who withstand the sting of sowing. Tucked within the peculiar season that is autumn is the delicate juxtaposition of sumptuous beauty in the falling apart of life. And so is my affection for autumn, for in it I can see God the Healer’s breathtaking ability to paint beauty out of dying.
It is fall, crisp, melancholy and honey sweet. It is fall, and it is exceedingly welcome.