Fall is a beautiful time of year. The colors of the changing trees, cool relief from summer’s heat, and sound of crisp leaves crunching underfoot are all welcome signs that autumn is underway. Foods such as pumpkin and apple are welcomed back into menus, as are wonderful flavors such as cinnamon and nutmeg. By August, fall can’t come soon enough for me, but living in the South, it takes some time before nature catches up with the calendar year.
When it finally begins to catch up, fall plays out slowly but surely. By early November the colors peak, but this doesn’t mean all the leaves are ready to fall off the trees. Instead, it means that rich colors dot the forests, but it will still take several weeks before all the leaves hit the ground.
This slow death of autumn means that winter’s arrival is delayed until sometime in December even though culturally our society tends to pack up its fall decorations around Thanksgiving. This results in a strange period of transition in the end of November when winter and Christmas are on the horizon, but when the world of nature tells us we are still a ways off.
This year, 2017, Thanksgiving landed on November 23. This early date for the holiday, which is always on the fourth Thursday of November, meant that the stretch of time before the beginning of Advent became a no-man’s land of sorts. Christmas decorations have already been up in malls and Yuletide jingles playing in stores, but outside it still seemed very much like fall. I am a strong believer in living life according to the proper season instead of according to the recommendations of commercial institutions, so I am unwilling to look forward to Christmas just yet.
Although this discrepancy leaves me unsettled from a cultural standpoint, I can’t help but think that this time of year is one of the greatest because we can appreciate autumn in its very essence. We experience fall when the rest of the world has moved on to the season that lies ahead. We experience the death of nature and appreciate it for more than its display of brilliant colors. And we experience a world stripped to its essence and making preparations for its springtime renewal.
The slow death of autumn can remind us of the metaphysical ideas of nature and time. If our minds are not in sync with the nature, however, we are bound to miss it. I cannot help but think of the line from Ralph Waldo Emerson which seems relevant to this very conversation: “Adopt the pace of nature; her secret is patience”.