Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Reflections on Autumn

Now in my seventies, with a great deal of optimism, I acknowledge that I am hopefully approaching the mid to early late part (is there such a thing?) of the autumn of my life.  No one knows the length of one's days on this earth, but since longevity seems to be in my genes, I'm hoping I am not approaching the winter of my life soon.

I also acknowledge that change in this stage of life is not always easily accepted by me.  For some reason, my resistance to change is especially marked by the changing of the seasons.  Do any of you whom find yourselves in the same stage of life where I find myself find you feel the same way about change?  That is a long sentence.  More succinctly, do you resist change?

The change  from summer to autumn was especially difficult for me this year.  I fought accepting that change was coming.  I saw the signs of the coming drastic changes in weather in the reports from the high country.  It was snowing in the mountains in September.  Having spent my late teens living in the mountains of Colorado, I certainly was not surprised by snow flurries before the autumnal equinox.  "I've seen it snow on the Fourth of July in mountains," I say to myself and others.  Knowing the facts of life about weather when one lives in Colorado does not mean that one always accepts those facts as something to embrace.  This year, I wanted to see an extended summer.  Even though I love autumn, I did not wish to see her approach because I didn't want winter to arrive on her heels.

Resisting the arrival of autumn  made no sense in many ways because I love autumn as much as I love guacamole.  That means that I love autumn a lot.  Almost more than I love any other time of the year, I love the season we sometimes call fall.  Comparing my love for fall with my love for guacamole is probably an analogy you have not seen before.  In fact, you may be scratching your head and asking, "Where IS she going with this?"  Hint:  I am also making a comparison to aging when I think of guacamole and autumn.  For the answer, please allow me to  tell you a little story to illustrate why I am comparing guacamole and autumn and aging.   I wish I'd had the original idea for this analogy, but alas, I did not.  My dear friend high school friend IC deserves the credit.

Recently, even though she is mostly retired,  IC accepted a rather intense and demanding job.  It was a job that would not last more than a year, but it meant that the days and the nights while she was working would be dedicated to accomplishing the task she had accepted.  As she told me about her decision to take the job, she used what I thought was a brilliant observation.  She said,

Working at this stage in life is a lot like guacamole.

I said,
How's that?

She said,
Guacamole is a delicious mix of just the right ingredients,
but it has a short shelf life.

I've thought about her analogy so often since she shared it with me.  I thought of how true it is that as we enter of autumn of life, if we have been blessed to still have all of out mental capabilities,  we retain all of the skills that we developed over the years of our professional lives.  Those "right ingredients" are not only in place, but we also know the recipe of how to take those ingredients and successfully turn them into a something we feel confident about serving to others.

When we were younger, did any of us now in the autumn of life ever think about the length of shelf life that we had for any of our skills? Did we ever give a thought to the short window of time we would have to serve up our best assets?  Even if we have taken the very best care of ourselves by eating right and exercising daily, did we consider the short life that our physical abilities and strengths would have?  Did we know how fleeting the days of our productivity would be before the age of retirement suddenly came upon us?  Even though many of us are engaged in working, or in being productive by volunteering, I think most of us in the same season of life where I find myself can agree that since we are now in the autumn of life, we are very much like guacamole.  We have great value, but our shelf life is short.

As I ponder these thoughts, I realize that I must not ignore the perishable aspects of life while they can still be enjoyed.  No one enjoys guacamole when it has turned from green to brown.  It truly does not last long, nor will autumn, nor will this time of life.

My fears that winter was on the heels of autumn were truly unfounded this year.  Just as the landscape has thrilled me with endless sightings of  tall gloriously clothed trees of orange, and red, and gold this year, so have I been enthralled to find that we have been given a long string of sunny and unseasonably warm days.  One truly can't predict how a season will really turn out.  Why do I spend my days fretting that days of snow, and wind, and cold weather are just around the corner?

I remind myself that though the season may signal a change that is coming, the change that I dread has not yet arrived.

While autumn does not seem capricious to me, she does announce her arrival by showing off her variegated nature.  I sense that she too is hanging on to summer just a bit when I see trees of green and gold.  She promises she will display more glory and beauty in the days ahead by edging some of  the leaves on a green and gold tree with shades of red and orange.

Autumn, you hold great interest.  You are not stuck in the season where you only wear green.  I like that about you.

Autumn, you choose so many hues of red, gold, and green to show just how much you love variety.

Robed in intense colors, the foliage of autumn calls us out of doors to capture her beauty.  Those seeking lessons from autumn learn from her golden glory against a blue sky  that such richness was not achieved overnight. It takes more than one season of the year to produce this memorable distinction.

Autumn teaches us that these golden days of great beauty do not last forever.

The irony and the lesson of autumn is that on the day she shows her most glory, she is also shedding that which has brought her the most accolade.  She gracefully lets go her golden beauty.


On a perfect autumn day, my husband and I took a walk with our dog.  We kept stopping to snap photos of the scenes along the way because everything just looked so beautiful.  Once home, we took the opportunity to sit outside on a new patio we built last year and enjoy the day for a bit longer.  It is good to be in this season of life, we remarked, as retirement has meant that we now have time to enjoy fall days out of doors rather than in a school building.

On that day, I wondered why I had resisted autumn's arrival earlier in the season.  It is a glorious season of the year, and a wonderful season of life.  While this time of life may, like guacamole, have a short shelf life, I'm learning to live in the moment and make the most of that moment.  As I'm learning to let go graciously of the glories of season before me,  I'm just as sure that I'm not finished with this season of life yet.  This season of life is different than one before it.  Different in many good ways.  There seems to be a long stretch of paths ahead for me which still hold great possibility and opportunity.