Fall is an iffy season for me. I enjoy the apples, and the smell of leaves, and the skies can be far more beautiful than at any other season. But it means that winter is around the bend, and it’s going to get darker, and so there’s a chance that days will pass without my seeing daylight. But I think it’s important to be explicit about what I enjoy and why, lest it passes me by.
I really enjoy the fall colors, especially on a bright, breezy day. That’s a bit much to ask here in Michigan, but I can dream. I especially like the very breezy days when the leaves start to fall. It reminds me of Hemingway’s story, “Three Day Blow,” which is not a particularly cheery story (it’s about the sadness and confusion after a breakup) but I enjoy reading Hemingway, and that story is set in Michigan (well, the U.P.) and so the whole big mess is jumbled up in my head and it’s all part of why I enjoy the fall colors.
I enjoy the rituals of football. The high school games on Friday nights, college games on Saturday, and so on. I actually don’t watch that much football, but I enjoy it when I do, and I would enjoy it more under the right circumstances. I find it comforting to know it’s there and happening.
I also enjoy the smell of leaves. On a dry day, when they’re being raked into piles, the smell is concentrated, and it’s conjures memories of jumping into leaf piles as a kid, having leaf fights with my brothers, and being ordered by our father to pick up the damn leaves. My father was a task master when it came to fallen leaves, and he instructed us in particular and preferred methods for stuffing the maximum possible leaves into a plastic bag. I have to believe that our city landfill is stuffed to the gills with bags of leaves, now dry and preserved by their plastic wrappings, and waiting to be discovered by scientists in the far future who will wonder with amazement what primitive people spent so much effort shoving leaves into plastic bags and burying them en masse. Well I was one of those primitive people.
My secret pleasure is in burning leaves. It’s messy and unnecessary, but I’ve done it a few times, and I would do it again, at least once, if I thought I could get away with it. I learned the hard way that I wasn’t supposed to burn leaves in this town.
The first year we moved here, we had a severe leaf problem. I attached a lawn sweeper to the tractor, and began gathering the leaves together in piles. I thought burning would be a great solution, and a coworker, Doug, joined me for the afternoon. As I carted load after load to the pile, he raked them into the fire, and we had a really smooth operation going. Then the fire department showed up to put out the fire, and explained to me in no uncertain terms that one simply could not burn leaves. Spoil sports.
A final side note is that Doug, who was a very good friend to us, passed away that winter at the untimely age of 48. I do enjoy the pleasures of fall, but it also reminds me that winter is not far away. I don’t dread either one because of Doug’s passing. If you live long enough, you bury enough friends and family that every season, every month, and every holiday becomes associated with the loss of a loved one. I don’t condemn the season with the loss; only the moment. The moment passes by to make room for the next moment.
If your heart is strong enough, there is love and pleasure available to you in those coming moments. You just have to be ready to accept it, and keeping aware of what I love, I hope, makes me ready.