None of the pictures I dreamed up have shaped me quite as much as those that were wrapped in autumn's clothes. The fall season captured my imagination because it didn't matter what kind of story I read, autumn could be used as powerfully as any of the characters in the story. There is a duality in the season that writers have used to establish a tension between beauty and barrenness. The season portends death and yet, it is still filled with so much life. This duality allows the writer to explore the whole range of the human experience.
"Autumn is the mellower season, and what we lose in flowers we more than gain in fruits." -Samuel Butler, The Way of all Flesh.
And sometimes the symbolism is not so subtle: "Death lies on her like an untimely frost
upon the sweetest flower of the field." -William Shakespeare, in Romeo and Juliet.
Our experience in the garden reinforces this grim symbolism. Our plants shed their summer beauty and we wait through fall and winter to see if they return, knowing that some may not, but knowing also, that we can do nothing to prevent the eventual chill of our own autumnal approach. But to garden is to have hope in the future. We hope because we have jumped in piles of raked leaves and taken hayrides through apple orchards, so we know that autumn proclaims more than just decay and despair. It also proclaims that the enchantment of twilight is unique and that even at its worst, the world is still a beautiful place. Okay, so I confess: I have never actually played in a pile of leaves or taken a hayride, but I have read books about people that have, and the memory of my reading is almost as ripe. In spite of the tendency towards using autumn to portray endings, many of our classic writers also give autumn unabashed praise. Writers have used the fleeting beauty of the season to encourage us to go outside and revel (or relax) in the season while we still can.
In My Antonia, Willa Cather wrote, "I was something that lay under the sun and felt it, like pumpkins, and I did not want to be anything more. I was entirely happy."
How great is that? If you could just sit in your garden and feel all day, wouldn't you do just that? Nathaniel Hawthorne echoed this sentiment when he said, "I cannot endure to waste anything as precious as autumn sunshine by staying in the house. So, I spend almost all daylight hours in the open air."
Washington Irving wanted to remind us that even in spooky Sleepy Hollow there is more to autumn than creepiness, leafless branches stretching out to ensnare us when traveling through the forest. "As Ichabod jogged slowly on his way, his eye, ever open to every symptom of culinary abundance, ranged with delight over the treasures of jolly autumn. On all sides he beheld vast store of apples, some hanging in oppressive opulence on the trees, some gathered into baskets and barrels for the markets, others heaped up in rich piles for the cider-press."
Those of us that happily live with dirt under our fingernails are wired to create beauty, to enjoy the beauty abundant in nature, and to appreciate the skill of the artist who has painted autumn’s scenery. In literature we are reminded of the wonderfulness of the season by the likes of talents such as Jane Austin, “Her pleasure in the walk must arise from the exercise and the day, from the view of the last smiles of the year upon the tawny leaves and withered hedges, and from repeating to herself some few of the thousand poetical descriptions extant of autumn - that season of peculiar and inexhaustible influence on the mind of taste and tenderness - that season which has drawn from every poet worthy of being read some attempt at description, or some lines of feeling.”