The Voice of Autumn sounds like Prayer
October 3, 2012
Ah, the sweet breath of autumn. It glides down from the high limestone bluffs on invisible waves. It carries with it the loamy aroma of the orchards and the scent of October apples.
This is a precious time of the year, a season of electric change in the earth’s atmosphere, a time when Nature brings out her palette and brushes the colors of fall onto the faltering leaves of deciduous trees.
The hills, with their maples, sumacs, oaks, black walnuts and box elders are aflame with the bright hues of gold, crimson and lavender as if each tree were dipped in a vat of Grumbacher oils.
The fall mornings impart a crisp tang to the air. In my ears, the spring zephyrs whisper of winter and the shadows seem to be templates for winter snows as they puddle under the hardwoods and the cedars.
This is the season when the woods and earth’s flora fall into a stupor and sleep. Brittle limbs snap off trees and acorns littler the ground like nuggets for the squirrels. In the hush of the days, there is the scurry of squirrels on an Easter egg hunt. They bury their treasures when the larder in their dens fills up and they map the hiding places in their minds for later retrieval.
For autumn is a time to take stock and, for many creatures, a time to stock up. It is a time of change and the death of things. Winter is just beyond the last splash of color on the hills. It is the grey-bearded man of the dark caves. Autumn is so short and so sad.
Yet the season pulses with something beyond time, a reminder that timelessness is in every atom and molecule of existence. Some do not notice that time is there until the clock stops running. And, autumn is when all the clocks run down and time ticks away on a watch with no hands. In those autumn leaves, there is the last blush of color on a land that, if it is not dying, it is most certainly going to sleep.
The breath of autumn whispers that it is time to slow down, take stock, gird for winter and just let time by to wherever it goes, not to return again until the Spring.
There will always be an Eden, if not in some specific place, then certainly within the limitless expanse of memory. And Eden changes with the tide of life, with the sun’s slant when night and day take up the same amount of time and then the days become shorter, the nights longer, so that our sense of time is warped, misshapen and contrary.
That first breath of autumn is like no other. It is a Goldilocks breath, not too hot, not too cold, not too brisk, and not too slow, but just right. Soft and gentle as a lover’s kiss, that autumn breath is the murmur of the ocean in a seashell, the ripple of a glacier’s muscles far to the north, the winding of stars and galaxies through infinite space, the hum of a lovely tune, the cooing of a baby nestled in a mother’s gentle arms.
It is a reminder that Eden is not a place, but a state of mind. And that state of mind is a chameleon, a map scrawled in the sands of a sea shore just before the tide rolls in and washes it away.
Here, in these Ozarks hills, my Eden stands as a garden that has served its purpose and in its withering grasses, life is teeming just below the surface, dormant for a time, as we pause and reflect on the generosity of life and all that has been given to us. This is a time to harvest what we have grown and learned, and to be thankful.
In that first breath of autumn, there is a word, a sentence, a phrase, and a paragraph, a chapter and a book.
It says everything there is to say, and everything that has been said.
It sounds almost like a prayer.
Pulitzer Prize Nominee Jory Sherman is author of Hills of Eden.