It astonishes me how one season can be both profoundly beautiful and profoundly sad. When I was ten years old my family moved from a small industrial city to prison housing in a rural farming community. At the time, my father was the assistant warden of a maximum security prison, and high level staff and their families were expected to live on the grounds. Although we made the move in late August, for me, my seven years there are frozen in autumn. Our home, one of four, was set upon a hill. In back of our house-forest. In front of our house-fields. And if you looked past those fields, you could see a medium security prison looming on the horizon. It was an isolating and lonely existence, and, no matter how beautiful the landscape was, for a child used to a neighborhood and city kids, it was, well, sad. In my memory the sky was always gray, the trees always bare and the ground always covered in a blanket of the decomposing remains of what was once vibrant foliage. What strikes me most, however, is the perennial sound of honking geese. Prior to our move, I think it is possible that I had never before heard geese much less seen them flying overhead in V formation. But there, in that place, geese were omnipresent, honking, flying overhead, reminding me that I was a stranger trapped in a place that they were escaping from, if not forever, at least for the impending winter.
As I have grown older, I have learned to truly appreciate and, in many ways, love the fall. Fall is now a time of beautiful traditions-apple and pumpkin picking, hiking and collecting leaves while watching beams of sunlight shoot through tree branches, already majestic and adorned in gold. I look to my children to teach me lessons in optimism. They jump for joy into piles of dead leaves while happily awaiting the first snow to arrive and cover naked branches in crystal that shimmers in the light of the winter moon.
I guess it’s a matter of age and perspective. It is so easy to allow deep sorrow born from past experience to rob us of the happiness that comes from enjoying the beauty of the life we now lead. For me, I prefer to march on through dead leaves and enjoy hearing them crunch underfoot as I move on ahead.