In The Pursuit of Happiness: On the beauty of fall
I've never fully understood those people whose very core being is affected by the seasons. You know the type. The man whose depression neatly mirrors the wintry blizzards and the dark cold nights. Or the woman who grows restless with the first buds or sprinkle of rain on the first day of spring. Or even the child who can barely sit still on the last day of school, the promise of warm, endless days of summer a mere three hours away. I remained ever the skeptic. That is, until a few years ago. My sister and I were out on our usual morning walk. For the last few days, I'd been feeling out of sorts. Was I coming down with a cold? Was I suffering from lady troubles? Did I eat a bad batch of my mother's famous Hamburger Helper? But sadly, no hypothesis rang true. And then I saw it on that walk. Peeking out from the patch of grass, practically hugging the bark of a summer tree, lay a lonely little leaf. Like a diamond in the rough, it stood out proud and distinct in its tiny shady glen. Though its colors were not in full bloom, there was no mistaking its metamorphosis. A collage of deep reds, light oranges and faint yellows scooted the once lush green hue out of the frame.
That's when it hit me: The colors of fall -- a harbinger of things to come. And then, like magic, for the first time on that very walk, my sense of dread and doom following the end of summer transformed into anticipation. I anticipated the chilly fall afternoons and evenings, where people warm themselves with a tall glass of cider. I anticipated the frosty mornings as you walk to school or work, plowing through the frost-laden grass with a light jacked zipped up tightly to your chin. I anticipated squealing like a little girl at the prospect of carving a massive pumpkin, carefully placing every seed aside and then roasting them in the oven and lathering them with a touch of salt. But all the while, I couldn't help but wonder: Does fall get overshadowed by the prospect of the holiday season a mere two months away and the nostalgia of those lazy hazy days of summer? Is fall the Jan Brady of the seasons? And is it not fall that is really the most wonderful time of the year?
The day was perfect for a trip to the apple orchard on that hot -- and uncharacteristically humid -- September afternoon. "Let's go and get some apples and donuts for dessert,” suggested my mother. Leave it to her to have all the good ideas. As I stepped out of the car, I heard my shoes meet the gravel path, sending swirls of rocks into the afternoon, and then heard the faint sounds of a fiddle in the distance as people mingled about the pumpkin patch and apple fields or just enjoyed shooting the breeze on the farmhouse porch. I was in love. In love with fall and all its splendid gifts. My heart pumped even harder when we stepped into the shop. The smell of taffy apples, cider and donuts intoxicated my lungs. My eyes were mesmerized by the hardwood floor that squeaked its presence like an ancient house, and I meandered up and down the aisles like a child browsing Santa's workshop. The bags of shiny apples. The pumpkin decorations. The fall candles and wreathes. It was almost like being wrapped in a giant bag of candy corn. As we pulled away, our apples and donuts in tow, the sun swept across the field, and the wind blew a cool fall breeze. I felt calm. No worries. I sat calm just like that small, tiny leaf that lay under the tree. Go forth and enjoy the season of colors and coolness. Carve that pumpkin with a scary face. Eat as many donut holes as your little tummy can hold. Maybe even rake a pile of leaves only to jump headfirst into their mattress-like cushiness. Now, all that's left to complete my fall puzzle is a large bag of candy corn. Sugar jitters be damned!