Commentary: The gifts of autumn

The Kansas City StarNovember 22, 2012 

The autumn came in like a girl in a new party dress.

Streets of the neighborhood were canopied with burgundy and gold. Never had our city seemed more beautiful.

But the party was brief. The pretty dress got tattered. The trees, so lately plump with foliage, have strewn their color on the ground, and soon they will be bleak scaffoldings of bare branches.

With those changes, the rhythm of the days has also changed.

Night’s blackness lingers now well past the hour for rising. The sky, when light begins to come, is a uniform slate gray. Water in the outdoor dog pan is skimmed with ice.

It seems that, unnoticed, autumn has fled and the bitter season is upon us.

But on a recent morning the sun won its contest with the dark. The gray sky gave way to unbroken powder blue, with not a vagrant cloud in sight.

The grass, struck by that early light, glistened in the way that only happens at this time of year. And seen in relief against that wonder of a sky, the few leaves still hanging were drawn as sharply, as clearly, as if by an artist’s brush.

Such a morning prompted me to recall times spent afield with friends and dogs, theirs and mine — days when the land rolled away to the end of seeing, empty with the harvest taken, the only sound the hum of a plane on its way to somewhere or the chain saw of a man cutting stove wood in a patch of timber not far away.

I love this season for the gifts it has given me.

The adventures of school starting — first the schools I walked to, then the one I rode away to on a bus …

The usual quota of boyhood infatuations — shallow and transient though they were …

The pride of moving into our first house, and five years after that into our second — both times in autumn …

The joy of seeing two small daughters in their cribs and later — a good bit later — wishing them off to learning adventures of their own.

Some people, I know, are untouched by the magic of November’s chilly passage. They sense only the certainty of yet another year’s decline. My mother was afflicted by that melancholy. I never understood it, and do not still.

Looking out the window as I write this on a day that, though crisp, is wonderfully bright, I remember only the best, and expect more of the same.

Maybe it’s foolish optimism. If so, I owe it to great friends, a wonderful family and the good fortune of a lifetime spent at work I’ve found endlessly satisfying.

For anything beyond that, autumn gets the credit.

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