I would love autumn more if it weren’t the prelude to winter. One of nature’s ironies, then, like a butterfly face, is that such a lovely season portends a longer, cold, dead one. Or is it not irony, but gentleness? If you think of these things as part of a plan (or perhaps even if you don’t) then maybe autumn is nature’s way of easing its occupants carefully into winter. When September arrives, it’s still summertime, and there is no evidence that decay is looming. Then the goldenrod comes, and maybe the weather is hot and steamy or maybe it’s not, but the greenness of the world starts taking on a worn cast, and the verdancy of summer starts looking less durable, by just a hint. The temperature lowers to pleasant at least, but by mid-September there’s been a night cold enough to send the hummingbirds on their way.
And then the month changes, and by mid-October it becomes impossible to pretend that summer isn’t gone. Before that you can kid yourself a little, because the petunias are still in flower, the trees are mostly green despite those touches of brown, and you’re still getting a few tomatoes. A few hummingbirds who spent the summer in Michigan hit the feeder on their way south. But then you wake up one day and frost is decorating the tips of still-fresh plants and you know that it’s gone. But it’ll be back. Now it’s time to let go and breathe the chill, crunch the leaves, and surrender to the season. Autumn rewards us for that surrender with vivid colors and gentle ambient light, along with mushrooms, big orange harvest moons and many V’s of flying geese. And I love it, but I love it always with the awareness that it’s sending me into a season that troubles me.