Sep 25 2008

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These Golden Days

Posted at 8:58 am under Blog Post

Yesterday I went for a long walk shortly after the sun rose.  The air was crisp and cool, and a golden glow permeated everything.  My dog sniffed along the grassy edges as I followed a stone path cutting through the woods.  I reveled in the dryleaf smell of early fall, as delightful in its own way as the smell of lilies in spring.  The surrounding forest was more brown than green.  Blue and white asters flowered in the ditches along the path. Crimson sumac, purplish grapevines, bright orange maple leaves and yellowing birches — this time of year, every color seems to have its day.  Change is in the air.

Spring used to be my favorite season but now it’s autumn.  I still enjoy that great thaw early in the year, when the world comes alive again, but I identify more with autumn as I grow older.  It seems more in keeping with the sensibilities of late middle-age.  In my fifties now, I see in the world around me a quiet, mature beauty that is easy to miss – more bittersweet than sweet.  One has to pay careful attention to catch it amid the sudden burst brilliant fall foliage.

Autumn is the perfect time of year for reflection.  Gone are the stinky thoughts of late winter, the jubilant rebirth of springtime, and the long daydreams of summer.  These are the days when thoughts easily sharpen to fine points, when memory and idea converge into insight with the least amount of difficulty.  These are the days when one’s mind clears with minimal effort, even as a thin haze hangs over waterways and among wooded hills.

America is a culture obsessed with youth and newness.  If you have any doubts about this, just turn on your television or visit a nearby shopping mall.  There is little room in it for subtle beauty, nuance or reflection.  All eyes are drawn towards what is now, hip and wow.  That is why we like our loud guitars, techie toys and anything that flashes or shines.   Consequently, we begin the fall season with a flurry of back-to-school spending, then end it with holiday plans.  Between there is little time for much more than a few snapshots of peaking leaf color.  The rest of the season is a blur.  We are busy, busy.

Then comes the harvest.  Other day, one of my grandchildren told me that he’s going to be the Grim Reaper for Halloween.  I had to laugh.  The thought of a vibrant eight-year-old playing the part of Death struck me as absurd – the perfect symbol for the clash of image and reality in our time.  He has no idea what death is, of course.  But I do.  Perhaps that is why I find this time of year so precious, so bittersweet.  The days are getting shorter, darkness is closing in, and the hard edge of winter is not far away.  Traditionally, it’s time to bring in the harvest, hunker down for the lean months ahead, and keep the Reaper at bay.

With the hint of death lurking in the corner of my eye, I cut my pace.  I slowly ambled along the path, trying to take in as much of nature’s sights, sounds and smells as possible before going about my daily affairs.  I, too, am busy.  But I stopped running long enough to take in the broader view.

Today I’ll make it a point to look up when a V of geese honks high overhead.  Maybe I’ll cut some flowers from my garden and carry them inside before a hard frost strikes.  Maybe I’ll go for another shirtsleeve walk while I still can.  After all, these golden days are fleeting.  The snow will fly before any of us are completely ready for it.  There is no time to waste.

4 responses so far

4 Responses to “These Golden Days”

  1. Andrewon 25 Sep 2008 at 9:14 am 1

    Love the post Walt. Thanks. Andrew

  2. Deedee Burnsideon 26 Sep 2008 at 10:54 am 2


  3. Phil Ruddon 12 Oct 2008 at 8:50 pm 3

    8 YO Grim Reaper! LOL!

    I’m going to a costume party as Detritus.


  4. Louisa Hernandezon 12 Nov 2008 at 10:43 pm 4