When we moved to Arkansas from Alaska twenty-one years ago, I could hardly wait for the first signs of fall. Having spent three years in America’s most northern state, I loved the breathtaking winter scenes, the Northern Lights and the summers of fishing for salmon under a midnight sun.
What I missed, however, was the beautiful hues of autumn leaves, feeling their crunch underfoot and that certain crisp, earthy smell of an early October morning. When you live in Alaska and people ask how long you’ve been there you jokingly take the number of years and double it for the winter months. So I, for example, would say that I lived there for three summers and six winters because the winters, although beautiful, can seem terminally long.
The official beginning of fall there is not accented by orange and red leaves but rather by the first dusting of snow far up high on the mountains. This is referred to by locals as “termination dust” as it marks the end of long summer days and the beginning of an even longer winter.
What I missed, however, was the beautiful hues of autumn leaves, feeling their crunch underfoot and that certain crisp, earthy smell of an early October morning.
Six months later we would say goodbye to our winter wonderland scenes resembling the inside of a snow globe and prepare for the Alaskan version of spring, called “breakup”. This is when the ice collected over the winter and the permafrost which blanketed the ground would finally begin to melt and thaw, exposing all the debris which had accumulated and been covered with multiple snowfalls throughout the winter. Not the prettiest sight or season but we had the glorious summer ahead to anticipate!
The first friend I made when I moved from Alaska to my new location lived just one street over. She and I would sometimes walk the park path near our houses and that first September I was like a child waiting for Christmas. I would eagerly scour the sidewalks during our strolls searching for fall leaves. When I finally spotted a reddish brown leaf lying on the ground one day I was ecstatic! “Look! Fall is here!” I excitedly proclaimed. With an almost pitying expressions she replied, “No, Darla. That’s just a dead leaf.”
Over the next few weeks it almost became a joke between us. I was so insistent on hurrying the season that I continued to call every slightly colored dead leaf a sign of fall and she continued to refute my observations. Finally one day I went to my mailbox and there on top of the mail was a single giant leaf with brilliant bursts of red, yellow and orange color that nearly took my breath away!
The glorious beauty of autumn is always worth the wait!
I knew immediately it was my friend’s way of celebrating with me what I had impatiently awaited. She has often left me other stunning leaves at the beginning of the season or will text me a picture from her phone when she sees one that reminds her of me. We even made a fall road trip together one year and she was patient enough to stop and let me take multiple pictures along the way. Although my preference would be for this wondrous season to begin in August, the glorious beauty of autumn is always worth the wait!
Ecclesiastes 3 states it best. “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven.” While I try to appreciate and savor each and every season and the gifts it brings, I will readily admit that the “third season” is my personal favorite.
I love to read and write outdoors when the leaves are falling and the air is just right. I’ve been this way since I was a child so I don’t expect it to change now that I’m actually IN the autumn of my life. So in celebration of these few months that carry for me the richest of nature’s displays, I wanted to share a couple of poems. Although I wrote them years ago, their message for me is timeless.
Autumn leaves me feeling glad
Of richness and warmth of color
Glad to breathe scented air
That blankets Summer’s slumber
Autumn leaves me knowing that
Following Lady Winter
Will come the Springtime that I love
And have looked for since December
Autumn leaves me sure of life
And certain of its seasons
Sure of order in it all
Even when I can’t find reasons
Autumn leaves me watching leaves
Float to earth to die
Knowing in the course of things
That someday so will I
Autumn leaves me tender to
The fragileness of life
To the beauty of being friend
Sister, mother, wife
Autumn leaves me thankful
To be part of it all
Thankful for time to reflect
In the season we call Fall
One lovely autumn afternoon when my children were small I was watching them play in
the leaves. Rolling down the hill in our backyard, dressed in warm fall colors, I was struck by how they themselves reminded me of falling leaves. It was then I wrote these words.
Three leaves fell from my tree of life
And as with all that is touched by
The Wind of God, instantly
Became things of beauty
Of wonder, of undeniable joy
Now along with deserts, rivers
Canyons and seas
Earth’s surface is also
Decorated by these
Now God and I sit on warm afternoons
Admiring the richness of all that we see
He most especially of sunlight and smiles
I most especially of three dancing leaves
Whatever your favorite season may be, I invite you to open yourself up to the beauty and wonder of this one. Let your senses feast fully on its flavor and your heart be made glad with its richness.
Psalm 96:12 is a declaration to the earth. “Let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them; let all the tress of the forest sing for joy.”
My declaration to YOU is “May you hear that song, embrace that sound but more importantly may you know its Composer, the Creator of all.”