Autumnal Longings

About a month ago it was the autumnal equinox, the first day of autumn. At that time, the crisp, cool mornings of fall had not yet begun. Since then finally the leaves begin to fall. Autumnal things have begun to happen. School has started again. Football is in full swing. Labor Day has come and gone. Halloween is on its way. We rarely get above mid-sixties now (though we had a 75 degree day Saturday). I have to wear a jacket when I leave for work in the mornings, and on the way home.

Autum is by far my favorite season of the year, and always at this time of year, I am one big mass of longing.

It’s difficult to articulate what I’m longing for. Autumn isn’t really a destination, like winter and summer are. It’s not even the beginning that Spring is. Autumn, alone of all the seasons, seems inherently transitory. It is always on the way from summer’s long, lazy heat to the frozen eternity of winter’s cold. In autumn, one cannot even yet look forward to spring’s promises. If spring promises the life of summer, and winter is life’s end, then autumn must be a lot like dying. No longer living as one has, not yet dead, one is merely stretched and in-between.

And so, for whatever reason, autumn gives rise to inwardly slowing down, to making place for serious thought and contemplation. It is an occasion to go deeper than one has yet gone, a chance to rectify lost opportunities. It is a call to repentance, to the seeking of forgiveness and the giving of it.

There are temptations in autumn. To get lost in nostalgia and fail to attend to the present moment, to fail to watch and pray as the night gathers. The dull ache of transition can become addictive and one can fail to move on. It is easy to sit wrapped in a quilt and sip hot cider, harder to rise and light the vigil lamp and to pray.

There is a happy sorrow to autumn. In the dying signified by the falling of leaves, one nonetheless sees red, orange and yellow beauty. It does not make death beautiful, but gives promise of the beauty that lies in the triumph over death. The enemy cannot hide the truth. The soggy mass of leaves rot and decay. But as they do, they sing of the golden realities that await us.

The sunny days of autumn are strangely beautiful. The light gives its hint of fading glory, as the sun’s slant strikes the earth just so. We know the days grow shorter, the opportunities fewer. But the sunsets are more golden, and the harsh summer heat is softer, more welcome. We cannot bear the direct sight of glory, and autumn reminds us of this. We are bent creatures, and it is God’s mercy that we see the slanted rays which hide more than they reveal. But reveal they do. And such revelations give us a promise that burns like a coal in our breast.

Autumn calls us home. Families gather for feasts and holy days. Ties are strengthened and renewed. Each year testifies to the encroaching of time and death. But testifies, too, to the bonds which in Christ are indissoluble.

Maybe for these and other reasons, autumn is my favorite season.

Pray for me a sinner.