I can’t remember an autumn so breathtaking.
My children, having lived fewer seasons than myself, are in awe. Hannah, 15, points her camera toward Tabasco-colored leaves and Instagrams them with sentiments like, “Fall reminds me why I love this world,” and “#getoutside.”
Experts say a wet spring and coolish summer conspired to give us the best colors in decades. I don’t understand the science, but I appreciate the kaleidoscope – trees the color of mustard or merlot, shrubs blazing red and orange, sidewalks a billowing carpet of leaves.
Something about fall makes me want to twirl in the yard with my arms outstretched, Maria von Trapp-style, high on life and pumpkin spice lattes. The kids feel it too, though they’re more subdued.
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“Look at that!” I said during a recent drive, pointing toward a variegated maple at the side of the road. “Oh, look at that one! And that one!”
This year, each leaf has hung on for dear life. I’ll swear the next rain shower or blustery wind will strip the branches bare, but then the sun peeks out again and the trees are still dressed, only more vibrant, more vivid.
“Those leaves,” I say to the children again. “They’ve never lasted this long. Have you ever seen something so beautiful?”
“Yes, Mom,” Hannah says from the back seat. “We see it.”
Do you? I think. Because it doesn’t sound like you see it. I want exclamation points. They speak in commas and periods.
I am George Eliot: “Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it …”
They are James Wright:
I stand alone by an elder tree, I do not dare breathe
The wheat leans back toward its own darkness,
And I lean toward mine.
Each of us marvels in our own way, and theirs makes sense: Autumn is the season of gathering dusk – a long, chilly descent into winter – so it merits a certain level of reverence.
I realize, too, that my teenage children are experiencing their own season of change and turmoil, their moods often spinning as madly as the leaves, and they’re a tough audience. No longer does Jack toddle across the front yard to get a clear look at the sky and then gasp, pointing and shouting, “Moon! See, Daddy? Moon! Moon!”
The kids’ backpacks are heavy, and so are their minds. This passage from childhood to adulthood takes every ounce of their strength and energy – and an ever-increasing supply of groceries. Figuring out life and their place in the world is a full-time job.
But it’s hard not to exalt the colors, sounds and smells of autumn, so I continue undeterred. Let them call me loony. Let them say, as my husband did during that recent drive, that “Mom is easily entertained.” Let them be flippant or surly or glum.
I know that some time, maybe as they’re rolling their eyes, their gaze will land on a fiery, sunlit branch that still manages to astound. They’ll see a harvest moon hanging low on the horizon and understand that their worries are, in comparison, infinitesimal.
They’ll see cotton-candy sunsets, trees the color of caramel and candy apples. They may grab a camera, take a picture and Instagram thoughts rather than shouting them aloud. Moods may change, but wonder remains.
“The world will be good to you,” Hannah wrote recently, “if you look in the right direction.”