Monthly Archives: November 2015

Fall’s fading riot of color

riot 3I recently returned from a two week visit to the South Carolina coast with my brother and sister and bits and pieces of friends and family.  Children, husbands, grandchildren came and went but for the entire fourteen days it was my brother and sister and me.  Just the three that we are, now that mom and dad are gone. That simple fact, and the fact that we had returned to the ocean we had visited many times as kids and later year after year with our own children, was special.

Spending time at the beach brought back memories of our own youth as well as the childhoods of our now grown kids. The smell of the salt air, the warmth of the miles of sandy beach, the sway of the sea oats against startling blue skies, day after day was mesmerizing and restorative with a hint of magic. Our days seemed suspended in time and our worries and realities were blurred by the beauty of each day, each minute.

We were fortunate to arrive post-hurricane; the crispness and calm it left in the air and the sea was rare and fine.

The morning we left was as exquisite as the day before and the day before and the day before that. As we packed up towels and linens, emptied the refrigerator and washed off sandy beach toys, the real world loomed closer and closer. Packing his bags into the car, my brother commented that we were on our way “back to fall with it’s heartbreaking riot of color. A short and poignant season.”

Being an English professor, I asked him who he was quoting.  And he replied, ” Not a quote. I said that.”

I have reflected on that thought over and over in the month since we left the beach. I enjoyed fall’s riot of color. I enjoyed it through every state, on every country road and interstate as I drove from South Carolina through West Virginia to Illinois on my way home.  It was breathtaking.

We had our first snow yesterday.  Snow on top of fall’s last hoorah.  Not as much of a mess as one might anticipate but an early storm always brings a bit of that. A messy mix of the hanger-on leaves combined with wet snow that turns quickly to ice. And the riot was over.

Fall is like that.  A wild and beautiful display of nature at its best and then with the first frost or an early snow, it’s vibrant show is suddenly over.  And bleak winter is upon us.  Wet and heavy and bothersome.  Snow boots and down coats and shovels. Ice and frozen windshield wiper blades.

So I didn’t really understand the heartbreaking part of fall’s riot completely until the cold hard facts of winter came looming.

Winter here so soon caused me to pause and ask myself  why time and the days pass so much more quickly as we get older. And the seasons seem to blur. At first, my answer was that as a child our lives are filled with few responsibilities and little to clutter our minds about time. The days are long. Sunrise to sunset seems to take forever. Our proverbial mental video tapes are spare and slim.  Wide open and just starting to turn and accumulate bulk.

But as we age, our minds become full and heavy with memories and moments and thoughts.  Sorrows and pain, happiness and joy.  We acquire so many recorded moments that our minds cannot hold them all at once, and our videos seem to move in fast forward.

But then my husband had another thought.  He said it has less to do with long days and a childlike feeling of forever but more to do with fewer days and limited time.  Our time in this life gets shorter as we get older.  So days and seasons do as well.

I stopped and thought and admitted he was right. And the poignance of the present became all the more precious.

So on this Thanksgiving, I am hoping to do what the holiday implies. Amidst all the menu discussions and centerpiece planning and napkin folding and silverware counting, I hope to actually stop and give thanks.  For all the days I have left on this beautiful, volatile, crazy mixed-up earth. Oh, how I do love it. This earth.

Happy Thanksgiving.

And happy rioting, leaves or no leaves.