Autumn sweeps in again, full of color and contrast, its crisp scent sharp on the air. A hint of woodsmoke rides the breeze, teasing the edge of memory with flickers of bonfire and campsong. The maple tree at the end of the road is crimsoning, always the first to burst into flame. My breath catches each time its glory fills my view.
Autumn is vivid and joyful in its celebration of death and dreams. It is Death's sister, a smaller death, a passing of minor parts and youthful creatures into the long dark sleep of Winter. The longer-lived hold sway then, a containment of life iced over in preparation for new birth. But for now, life swirls into a riotous dance of scarlet and gold, jeweled gowns glowing against the emerald green of perpetual pines. There is no dismal droop into greyness here: there is explosion and celebration of beauty, a visual paean in praise of all that has gone before and will come again.
My son knows what the colors signify this year, his third time through the full cycle. He knows that soon he will be Spiderman with the mask that somehow covers his face yet allows him to see. He knows that soon a fourth finger will join the pack when a stranger asks his age. He knows he will have a cake shaped, somehow, like a four-wheeler, white on white by special request. He knows that soon the snow will fall, and the promise of snow angels and snowmen and sledding makes his feet dance. He looks forward, always wanting what comes next.
For me, Autumn is enough. It is fleeting, too fleeting, and too soon the leaves on the maple will fall and wither, carpeting the ground in russet mounds. The geese will fly south, winging their way towards more temperate climes. I stand and watch them go, wondering what stories they would tell could they settle by the fire and speak their tiny minds. I turn and breathe deeply, moving slowly in half-time shadowing of the crimson leaves dancing in life for a few more moments.
Winter will come with its cold white death, but there can be joy and beauty then too. It's a lesson learned anew each year, how to take what comes and find the joy, find the beauty, and join the dance.