The Already but Not Yet of Autumn

By Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Autumn has always thrilled me at a soul-deep level. Every year, when the temperatures cool and the sun mellows, it feels to me like a proverbial homecoming. I relish the inevitable gusty rain of late September that gives way to October’s flaming scarlet glory. I’m rarely happier than I am on a crisp, autumn morning with candles burning and a mug of tea warming my hands. And in recent years, I’ve realized that I want to live well in the posture of autumn. Contemplative yet longing, surrendering yet zealous, content with the present yet hopeful of better things in the future. 

Of all the seasons, autumn most embodies what it means to live in the tension of the already and not yet. The sun burns harvest orange as the days shorten and shadows lengthen. It prepares to recede into winter’s mists, but not without burnishing the sky to glowing majesty one last time. As the earth retreats for its long annual sleep, it sings out with wild, red yearning, clothing itself in dazzling color once more. The trees grow fierce and crimson just before winter wraps them in her heavy grey mantle. Though the leaves will curl and drop, they will not go without a passionate reddening first, incantating with bright promise that beauty will come again. 

And even as earth surrenders to winter’s grip, beneath the rich mould of fallen leaves, the seed’s marrow and the tree’s sap still flow, making ready new life. Autumn’s colors herald this ongoing yet invisible work, telling me to hold on, to wait expectantly with a melody in my heart for the coming kingdom of beauty that is not of this earth. As I watch the trees burst into fiery autumn splendor, I’m reminded that I, too, can laugh at the time to come even while creation groans. As the shadows deepen, my flickering candles, whistling kettle, and hearty feasts with friends declare alongside the brilliant leaves that death is not the end. In earth’s vivid farewell to the year’s life and memories, I see an invitation to vibrant, vigorous expectancy. I want to meet all of life’s changes, joys, and sorrows with autumn’s amber song of determined hope, looking towards an approaching beauty that will never die.

“It was October again…a glorious October, all red and gold, with mellow mornings when the valleys were filled with delicate mists as if the spirit of autumn had poured them in for the sun to drain – amethyst, pearl, silver, rose, and smoke-blue. The dews were so heavy that the fields glistened like cloth of silver and there were such heaps of rustling leaves in the hollows of many-stemmed woods to run crisply through.” –L.M. Montgomery

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