Autumn is nearly here, its full splendor peeking out from around the edges of the last hot days. I had intended to write a thoughtful, poignant column about this gorgeous season, the passage of time, and the bright, bittersweet days that carry us from the warmest time of year to the coldest. The weather has been perfect, although in the span of time between sunrise and sunset, several outfits are required–coats for the first light chores, sweaters for the morning, t-shirts at midday, and then back to sweaters and coats as the day goes. In other words, it is beautiful, but there is no denying that summer is behind us now.
Yes, I intended to write a very specific column, but instead, I pickled beets, stewed tomatoes, took the kids on a spontaneous overnight trip to the mountains, and then repotted my houseplants, because I could do it outside in the afternoon sunshine. Every glorious minute spent in the golden glow was worth it. The buttery shade of the trees, the soft scuffle of leaves falling, and the brown loam of the wind, we’ve arrived at my favorite time of year.
The one downside of the arrival of the autumn season–the harvest and preservation portion of the year–is that the house, including the patio, is usually in a state of semi-disaster. This year has been no different. How can one stay inside to clean when one knows the days of warmth are numbered? Not to mention that vegetables covering every surface does not lead to an organized situation. As I continue to putter away at these fall projects, with no noticeable progress, I often begin to feel disordered as well, which is not the proper mindset to be enjoying the last, best days of fine weather. Like the harvest, the changes in temperature, and the appearance of the first golden leaves on the cottonwoods, my descent into anxious disarray is a hallmark of the season.
A few years back, one bright morning in September, my husband suggested we take a family jaunt down to one of the draws and I balked. “We can wait,” he said, “But the colors are pretty bright. It’s probably the peak.”
Fall colors? Family hike? This is pretty much my love language. And yet I found myself grumbling, “I should be working on the house. And if I am not doing that, I should be writing my column.”
But, I got myself and the kids packed up and into the pickup. I figured it would end up being one of those things I’d be glad I did once I just got over myself and did it. I was right! As we ducked down into the winding coves and cuts of the narrow canyons that bisect our land, it was as though we’d stepped into the wooded hills of some ancient mountain range. Every footfall was crisp with the crunch of leaves, and though the air was warm as bathwater, each inhale carried the dark spice of harvest and harrow.
With age, every once in a while, comes wisdom. I’ve kept the memory of that hike tucked in the back pocket of my mind, and this year, I don’t need my husband to remind me to take a walk. For the first time, I’m completely enjoying myself; the usual anxiety (for now) kept at bay. Winter will come, it has every other year, and I’m not worried. Or, not very worried. Which is some impressive progress.
Meanwhile, Dear Reader, my house is still in ruins, but perhaps I wrote the column I had intended to after all. Also, I can tell you with surety, the cup of my heart is full with the beauty of the earth. Of course, you know this already, but it never hurts to hear it again: If you have the chance, take the walk, rustle the leaves, spend a little longer outside than you need to; soak in the sun and the soil. Let everything that can wait, wait, because the weather won’t. In the meantime, Happy Fall everyone!
Eliza Blue lives on a ranch in northwest South Dakota. She’s a musician, mom, author, and shepherd. She writes a column for newspapers in her region and produces audio commentary for South Dakota Public Radio. You can learn more about Eliza on her website.