The hours of sunlight are short. Yet the days are long, and time seems to move fast. We can’t measure our days by the brief hours between dark and dark, as John Updike once called them. We count the actual up-before-dawn, waking-and-productive, getting-things-done, go-to-sleep-long-after-the-sun-sets span of a daily schedule, to truly sum up how much we work and accomplish in a span of 24 hours in this season.
This quickened pace, this buzz of energy and activities, this hum in our veins … we knew it was coming. It rises like the frantic work of bees before winter. It’s part of the arrival of the school year or the busy professional season.
Autumn heralds a return to longer nights, cooler weather and more focus on work and academics. Summer slowed us down (if we were lucky) or at least changed our rhythms and tempted us to pause, linger, and have fun in the heat and light. Fall winds us up. We move faster to stay warm, or because we’re playing a sport, or because there’s something to get done once we arrive wherever we’re hastening to.
It’s the season of gathering-in. Harvest. We reap the benefits of slower times. Set aside whatever bounty we can for the lean times. Savor the brief time of abundance. Prepare for the long, frigid, brilliant months of winter that await us.
At the edge of October’s cooler presence, there’s pleasure in finding heat. It’s a dance of comfort and discomfort. We wear layers on the coldest days: sweaters and socks, hand-warmers and scarves. Then catch ourselves growing too hot, and peel off the layers again. Grow chilled and pull the protective gear back on. Then lean once more toward sources of warmth … a cozy fire, a steaming hot beverage, or an open door into a heated space.
We don’t stand still very long, because the persistent cold catches up. Amidst our rush and busy-ness, there is beauty in this changeable time of the year. It’s worth noticing: crisp and vivid.
If you stop a moment, and focus, every hair on your head, every follicle and nerve-ending, every brain cell and heartbeat, seems to stand at attention. Alive. Drinking it all in. Capturing flavors and views, burning them into memory.
Can harvest colors really be so bright? Do aromas hang so vividly in the air that you taste them on your tongue? Can sounds snap and retort so sharply? Does the tension between warmth and cold make you feel so aware of everything, so strung with tension and awareness?
Yes. Life often happens along the edges, margins and boundaries. In the metamorphosis. During the transformation. In the changes between one certainty and the next, between the point of departure and the place of arrival. Life vibrates here, now, in this transitional season, in the “space between.”
Don’t you want to stare off and step into, for just a moment, the changing hues – crimson, green and gilded — bright against a clear blue sky? Smudge your finger through the richness of long purple shadows cast by a distant sun in this season? Be robed in a swirl of golden leaves whirling and dancing in a high wind? Breathe in, exhale out, then watch your own respirations hang there, if it’s cold enough? Extend your arms to the veiled world on a misty morning when droplets of water cling to the air itself? Watch the lights wink on in the darkness?
There is magic in this time of change: autumn. Yes, it’s busy. These schedules demand more of us.
This season also wakes us up. Reminds us that we’re here. Alive. Calls us to pay attention. To be grateful for what has passed away, what remains here with us, and what awaits.