Looking ahead to autumn's gifts
Sept. 21, 2001
There is a sign I look for in September as evidence of something I anticipate for months every summer. It is the appearance of red leaves on black gum trees. Last week I saw several red leaves on a black gum sprout, and it made my day. This plant is my favorite indicator of the coming of autumn.
Other plant signs abound that announce the fall season; goldenrods bending under heavy blooms that have added a touch of orange to their brilliant yellow crowns; pea green hickory nuts swelling to golf ball size; waist-high stands of partridge peas showing off resplendent yellow blossoms.
These very early hints of fall foretell the coming flood of glorious sights and events that I long for in September, but see only in the memories of Octobers, Novembers and Decembers past. Bobwhite quail bursting from beneath my feet, buzzing away on wings made strong by the seeds and insects of summer; wild geese overhead heading south from some distant cold front, strung out in undulating V's and sounding their cries that enthralled our ancestors for ages; and later, persimmons hanging as orange globes among deep green leaves, splotched with red, some black-spotted with the signs of their impending deaths; wide-beamed whitetail bucks slipping silently among leafless trees, compelled to wander by hunger and the exigency to procreate.
These things and a thousand more await out there in that wellspring we call the future, anticipated because of fond recollections of the past.
The constantly changing seasons are evidence to me that the Creator intended to preempt boredom. He or She gave special characteristics to each of the four seasons that beckon to us and kindle our anticipation.
But if we could only have one of these splendid seasons all year long and I was doing the choosing, we would live our time in autumn. Our eyes would be filled with the reds of maples and sumac and dogwood berries. The music of coyotes and wild geese and chattering squirrels would fill our ears. Fragrances of freshly mown hayfields and burned gunpowder and mature sassafras stems would drift on the wind to our nostrils.
And we would stir with a finger the floating leaves in the clear water of a trickling brook. We would pick up the big, shiny acorns, remove their caps and drop them back onto the ground for the deer and the squirrels and the others. With a hand we would rub the arm-size sapling raked bare of its bark by the antlers of a giant buck that we will never see.
With our gifts of sight, hearing and smell, we would take in the wonders of fall. And with the gift of feel we would reach out, to touch at will the autumnal handiwork of God.