Published: Nov 24, 2012 07:00 PM
Modified: Nov 24, 2012 04:34 PM
Fall comes late to Chapel Hill. Already the Aspens, whose golden stands briefly spot the steep slopes of the Rockies, have lost their glitter. A sickled swath reaching from eastern Maine down into to the mountains of North Carolina and then up through the heart of the Midwest is in full color red, yellow and burnt orange.
Here, there are the first intimations of the riotous splendor to come. The nights are cool; this is sleeping weather. Fallen dead-brown and yellow leaves dust the ground, the early casualties of the season.
It is a time for contemplation about what has been and what is to come. The fortunate among us will (or now) live to see a
teeming autumn, big with rich increase, Bearing the wanton burden of the prime, Like widowd wombs after their lords decease. (Sonnet 97, Wm. Shakespeare.)
The season is a fulcrum balancing past, present and future while inexorable time pushes forward. Plain experience is not a quantum world where we perceive our place only when we measure out the days. Instead, each is a tipping point into eternity. Blithe or bitter, our spirits look back and forth in this echoing space between lost summers and certain winters.
The harvest must come to an end. We plant hearty kales and pansies. Assiduous next-door gardeners bring us read: unload their surfeit of gourds. (Beware of friends bearing vegetable gifts!)
On All Hallows Eve, children shriek in delighted anticipation of treats and sometimes in fear of the ghosts they conjure. Even for children, mirth betokens anguish. Recall Scouts blind, terrified flight toward home and the discovery of Jems broken body after the pageant neither inflicted by the mysterious Arthur Boo Radley, the childrens unseen guardian against real evil in the world. Revelations
And so it goes. Autumn can bring unforeseen revelations. Yet more often we struggle with the ambiguity of life and labor to resolve our own ambivalence.
Both cloud judgment and complicate the inescapable duty to choose. Was I right or wrong? Was he or she right or wrong? And even, what is right and what is wrong? It is a time ripe with mystery and duality.
There may be valid historical reasons we hold elections in late fall. It was the right time given the mostly agrarian society of 18th century America, but I suspect that somewhere in the consciousness of that age and of all before and after there lurks the relentless, reflective mood of the season. It is a time for grave decisions.
Remembrance and desire haunt these fading days; mellow fruitfulness adds comfort to the growing shade. We think on rising spring and high summer, and await the barren winter.
Full of unexpected fear and hope, this is the still point of life, between this world and that of grace.