As soon as August gives way to Labor Day, thoughts turn to that certain ubiquitous fall favorite. After all, Fall means pumpkin spice time, right? But, wait, isn’t fall more than certain flavored treats? When I was a kid, fall was more about the changing of the seasons and the coming of the holiday seasons.
Fall is full of promises
When the calendar flips over to September, many people bemoan the end of Summer, especially in the upper Midwest. In Minnesota, winters come early and last into May. While the end of summer can be a bittersweet moment, the end of heat and long days don’t mean that the good life is coming to an end.
There are many reasons to embrace the coming of fall. For one, the oppressive heat and humidity gives way to the crisp fall air and the clearer night skies. Though its sad to see the trees give up their cheerful summer clothing, the smell and crunch of fallen leaves has a charm and mystique all of its own. Fall nights bring the promise of bonfires and the melodious sound of crickets advertising for mates. Autumn brings a beauty unlike any other season. The kaleidoscope of colors blaze with a majesty that often defies description.
The Advent of holiday seasons
Around the middle of September, kids start clamoring for their desired Halloween costumes. Parents plan parties and start to compile their shopping lists for cooking and Christmas presents.
High schools gear up for football season and homecoming dances. Elementary schools focus on arts and crafts that feature the unique characteristics of this time of year. There is a feeling of anticipation in the air that is almost palatable. As the shorter days start to wane, everyone prepares for the flurry of activity that signals the ending of another year.
The smells of Autumn cannot be matched
Fall ushers in a feast for the senses, especially the aromas. Yes, fall means pumpkin spice, but there is so much more to savor. There are few smells that can rival the tangy, tart sweetness of fresh picked apples. Combine them with cinnamon and brown sugar and people are transported to their grandma’s kitchen and homemade apple treats.
The crunchy pungency of crushed leaves are so alluring that they are reproduced in scented candles that fly off the shelves. Pine cones and oranges with allspice trigger memories of cozy nights around a fireplace, curled up with a good book.
So, yes, companies have capitalized on our olfactory senses. They have made enormous profits from marrying fall and pumpkin spice together. Warm apple cider paired with ginger bread is another fall favorite in many households. In spite of this, there is a dark side to this season.
Fall signals the coming winter death
In late Autumn, I was enjoying tending to my still-flowering garden. Without warning, I heard a sound that caught my immediate attention. It was a sharp, nasal twanging honk that I hadn’t heard before. Looking up, I saw a sight that most native Minnesotans probably take for granted. Two large, majestic sandhill cranes were flying overhead, headed to their winter grounds. I stopped to watch their powerful wingbeats as these prehistoric creatures headed purposefully across the sky.
As much as I was enthralled with this memorable moment, it was filled with a certain poignancy. I treasure opportunities to watch birds in motion but I knew it signaled an end of a phase of life. Shortly after the cranes flew overhead, flocks of geese began filling the air. There has been an increase in the flocks of birds in the yard as they prepare for their long migration. Rabbits and small frogs are also in abundance as they get ready for the long winter’s “little death”.
The wind brings a fresh layer of dead leaves to the yard every morning and the chill in the evening air whispers that the cold and icy winter is not far behind. The wildflowers are putting forth their last burst of colors as even they are aware that the time to die is coming soon.
Fall: the beauty of death
As I get older, I view the changing seasons with a different eye. I am fully aware that my time to experience these changes are coming to an end. I no longer take time for granted, and cherish every moment of life. Every season holds its own charm and I look for ways to make the most of them. Life is always teaching us, no matter what stage of life we are in.
As children, we view life as something to be conquered while we wait to grow up. As young adults, we are often so busy climbing our way up the ladders of accomplishments, we forget to look around. Then, once our children are grown, we start to wake up to the lessons of life around us.
As long as we haven’t allowed life’s trials to harden our hearts, we will hopefully allow the joys of each season to fill us with appreciation for the gift of time. To that end, I am all for whatever we need to help us live in the beauty of each moment. If that requires that fall means pumpkin spice to many people, then I say, pass the whipped cream and let us savor the season.