Tuesday, September 26, 2006

The Arrival of Fall

Last weekend, according to the calendar, the autumnal equinox took place and we officially turned the corner from summer into (drum roll, please!) fall. Every year this time my heart leaps up. I know, I know--some of you are summer people and you are missing the squalor of those hot days when you strip down and soak up the rays. But, for some of us, the crisp, cool air signals the death of all those bothersome insects and the advent of that splash of color that makes you lift your eyes upwards, towards the heavens.

Here in Collegeville, autumn is beginning to arrive in all of its splendiforous array. There's not much red yet, but there are yellows everywhere you look. Right now, it's a rather odd pastel of colors--mostly muted, with an occasional renegade tree that sets itself off in brilliance from the others. On Sunday, I took a walk to the Collegeville Orchards where the smell of fresh apples and the giggles of children hiding in the pumpkin patch signalled that yes, autumn has not only arrived by the calendar, but we are beginning to acknowledge its presence in other ways as well.

My friend who teaches at Calvin College, Susan Felch, has edited four wonderful books with Gary Schmidt that feature readings relelevant to each of the seasons. The one on the fall season, entitled, Autumn: A Spiritual Biography of the Season, has five major themes--Change, Endings, Work, Harvest, and Thanksgiving. There are wonderful writers at work here: Anne Lamott, Verlyn Klinkenborg, Wendell Berry, Garret Keizer--even Bartlett Giamatti's ode to October baseball. Over the next few weeks I hope to include several snippets from some of my favorites.

Here are two paragraphs from Lauren Springer's "The Arrival of Fall," found in her book, The Undaunted Garden:

"Autumn is a time when warm color and rustling sounds resonate throughout the plant world. In the deciduous woodlands of the East and Midwest, winter spreads down the land from north to south, from highland to lowland, rolling a carpet of foliage color over the landscape before it. The land, so serenely green for all those months, suddenly looks like an infrared photograph. On the grasslands of the prairie and plains, the tired gray-green and buff of late summer take on richer amber, sienna and rust tones as the foliage and seedheads of the grasses ripen. Late-blooming wildflowers, predominantly deep golds and purples, attract sleepy butterflies and bees, while more energetic birds frenetically gorge themselves on seeds before the first snow cover blankets the land.
The sun arcs lower in the sky, softening and burnishing the light. All colors seem to emanate an inner warmth as if the heat of the summer were stored within them. The most mundane scenes--an empty concrete basketball court alive with whirling, wind-blown leaves, a chocolate-brown field spiked with tawny corn stubble--take on the qualities of gold-leaf, the light of a Venetian Renaissance painting."
--pp. 112-113