Fall fell all at once this week. One day the high was 90 degrees, the next the high was 64. I expected a more gradual drop, but I love the cooler weather and the impending turning colors of leaves. Here, we have a lot of oaks, so the dominant color of fall is this lovely golden light filtered through yellow and brown leaves.
But these last few days have been cloudy and my moonflowers aren’t following their usual bloom schedule. The first cool cloudy morning, they were open, big as you please.
In these fall days, leaves are dying back. Some leaves give you more color for a minute, but some just go from green to brown and you become deeply aware of mortality. I don’t try to cut back the diminishing leaves too much. That’s part of the landscape, even of a porch garden. Plants bloom, give me pleasure, then fade away.
I cut and watched a waning elephant ear leaf fade over a few days. The yellows and browns seemed so vivid, I enjoyed watching the curling edges brown and the complex swirl of the leaf structure.
Fall is a welcome relief from the heat of summer. A beautiful and melancholy season. I stroll around the neighborhood and see gardens transforming. People are decorating for Halloween and I see everything from ghoulish bones and monsters to funny pumpkins.
I think of the people I know and love who have died, and I long for another kind of ritual, more like the Day of Dead, celebrating those we have loved and lost and want to keep close through stories, food and visitations to their resting places. Cleaning a grave, remembering that we are mortal, that we don’t have all the answers, that our lives passing like an undecipherable dream.
I saw a dead robin as I was strolling around and it opened up a stream of grief, I started thinking of lost friends, sad songs, and then actually started crying. It was so strange. I wondered if a depression was coming on. Is the change of light going to be especially hard this year? I have so enjoyed this sunny summer. I can’t believe it’s over. Though many sad and troubling things happen in summer, it seems I reflect more on them in fall.
I wrote a poem about 5 years ago about what leaves tell us about life.
Under the gray sky
We walk upon a carpet
Of ruby and gold leaves
Enchanted to find
The ground so much
Brighter than the sky
We say this is the time of loss
The leaves blazing a
Last gasp of color
Before they die
Dust to dust
But the leaves crackle out
Another side of the story
As they make their yearly journey
Back to simplified elements
Flowing in the winter rains
Back to their roots
Where the tree absorbs them
Where they make their slow way up
To begin life on a limb
A friend took me to a local nursery for discount plants — the ones that didn’t get watered and are drooping and browning. We grabbed up all the ones with live buds and brought them home to give them some TLC. I should have mums blooming in another week. Another friend brought me some new plants, new color.
I’m learning this year that there are flowers that prefer shorter days and long cool nights. They are coming to life as others are dying back. It’s normal to feel the sadness of this old world more keenly as summer ends.
A robin doesn’t worry about its mortality, it flies, it maybe reproduces, it lives, it dies. As do all things. Even the oaks, hundreds of years old, who will give me filtered golden light in the coming month. They will one day fall, making room for some acorn to thrive.
Everything, perhaps, is as it should be.
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