This week, I was wowed, as if by a spectacular impressionist painting, when the brilliant hues lingering on the trees were at the height of their color: oranges, reds, golds, purples, and every shade in between. The soft light of early November must contribute to the visual splendor of the foliage.
While walking in the park, I commented to my husband, “The trees are unusually beautiful this year, particularly considering the dry spell we had this summer.”
My husband’s reply, “Every year you say, ‘This is one of the most beautiful falls I can remember!’”
And I suppose he is right. You see, he has a better memory than I do. Both for statements and places. I remember faces and smells. But apparently I do not remember how beautiful the autumn season is, from year to year. Every year I am struck as if it were the first time, seeing the breathtaking colors. Nor do I recall, until reminded, that I have this same reaction of mouth-open, jaw-stammering awe. But now that I am reminded, I suppose it is true. Nonetheless, the fact I have been here before does not diminish my visceral pleasure in the experience. Maybe it is because I don’t remember the vivid colors from year to year that I experience each “wow” autumn for the miracle it is.
By November the trees will have lost most of their colorful leaves. I am saddened by how quickly the seasons pass. Meanwhile, my Mother enters what looks to be her final phase. She talks to me for a few minutes a day, responding to my questions with a word or two. She no longer has the energy to talk much. I don’t know if she even has the energy to listen. But she seems to enjoy hearing my voice. I remind her of the time I had laryngitis on Thanksgiving. Our oldest son was one year old. Mom had said at that time she would be happy to talk for me. And she did. Now I don’t know if she remembers the experience or is shaking her head “yes” just to be companionable while I am visiting with her. That son is grown and has two youngsters of his own.
While the scene through my window is late fall with dabs of color here and there being overtaken by the grayness of winter, in my garage it is spring. The less hardy outdoor plants that no longer fit into the house proper are consigned to the garage. And there, ferns are happily waving near the front of our cars. A tall bay leaf tree also breathes in the garage odors. I wonder if the car fumes will affect any bay leaves I cut for stews. Intermingled with the ferns is a potted azalea that has summered on the patio. Now it is in full bloom, having mistake the change of location, and the garage’s cool, but steady temperatures as springtime. Bright Barbie-pink blossoms peak between fern fronds and greet me every time I pull into the garage.
Inside the house, asparagus ferns that had waved merrily all summer on the front porch now are turning yellow and shedding their needles. A hardy Thanksgiving cactus persistently blooms in its favorite window. Rosy blossoms perch on the ends of nearly every waxy cactus flower. The cactus looks too good to be real. And yet the only attention it gets is a weekly watering and benign neglect in its favorite window.
The leaves have fallen too quickly from the trees. But we cannot hold them back and prolong the season. We may not even remember how beautiful the season was until the next time it comes around and we again are reminded of the world’s spectacular beauty.
(Adapted from an essay written during another autumn)