It’s a glorious autumn day. We’ve been running in the upper Midwest – southern Wisconsin, northern Illinois.
The brilliance and intensity of the autumn foliage is yet to be determined. The colors are just starting to come on as we travel about, even as far south as the Tennessee Smokies (aka the wonderfully rolling, always gorgeous Great Smoky Mountain range).
Mother Nature soon will reveal to us if there has been too much drought over the summer to allow the colors to burst into brilliance. For now, it’s looking that way, but it is still early in the season – at least too early to make an accurate fall color assessment.
Still, the lovely environs remind me that it’s time to write about all things autumnal. The season is packed full of holidays and contemplative themes, rich with potential for exploration and consideration.
My long-time and childhood friend Patti is a fall aficionado.
“My favorite time of year is coming up,” she always would say as the calendar turned to September.
The debt of gratitude I owe to Patti is impossible for me to repay in this lifetime. We met when I was 12 years old and the new kid at her school. Immediately, we were friends.
In sixth grade, we both had grown into our heights before the rest of our bodies had a chance to catch up. I measured in at 5′ 10” and she at 6-feet even. So, our heights alone kind of made us like freaks of nature, at least for 12-year-olds. Her late mother Delores referred to us as, “two farts in a whirlwind.”
Patti’s last name started with “D,” and mine with “W.” We stood as towering bookends at either end of the alphabetically-arranged, 1970’s-style physical education attendance line.
Together we navigated the pitfalls of adolescence and beyond. But, while I remember myself as a brooding, self-absorbed teenager, she always demonstrated a wonderful attitude and positive outlook on life. Everybody loved her.
I think it’s that attitude of gratefulness, that propensity for the acknowledgement of gratitude that typifies Patti’s love for fall.
It’s easy to love summer – my favorite season. It’s a popular season for vacations. The weather is perfect for the outside activities I love like swimming, camping, hiking, bicycling; and of course for baseball. In my beloved Pacific Northwest home the sun stays out ’till 9 p.m.
But fall is a different animal. It
s gifts are more subtle, yet no less profound. In my opinion, the appreciation of fall requires a deeper spirituality than the ease of running wild through the woods under the canopy of summer leaves and starry skies.
For years I struggled with fall, mainly because the light goes away. But the light Must go away. It’s important to have time for introspection, for stillness. Those things are blessings in themselves. It’s hard to attain new spiritual growth without stopping for awhile to be still. The darkness provides us with such an opportunity.
Today, some 40 years on from our awkward adolescence, Patti remains that positive, grateful individual that had love and compassion for the new kid at school. I have grown into a more positive and grateful adult who understands that gratitude breeds happiness and blessings.
Difference between Patti and I? She knew that 40 years ago. I had to learn.
And so Patti, I dedicate this season of blogging to you – this season of pumpkins and leaves; of Halloween and ghost stories; of Thanksgiving and yes even of the solemnity of Veteran’s Day. I dedicate it all to you.
Thank you for your friendship all these years and for teaching me the importance of gratitude and stillness.
*Post note. There’s been some lag time since beginning this post. Now we are seeing the end of brilliant and beautiful fall colors as we travel about.