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Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Autumn Storms and Secret Places in the Heart

      The wind attacked the house in gusts last night, here in Tacoma. Tree branches scratched against the outside wall in their helpless frenzy and rain slapped at the window. Those gentle, golden days of autumn, when I planted pots of chrysanthemums to sit on the front porch and watched for the first turning leaves, are gone. The "season of mists and mellow fruitfulness" described in the famous poem "To Autumn" by John Keats, now lies tucked away in the secret place where I store my memories like so many Johnathon apples kept in a cellar for winter days.
       But I still love autumn. Maybe because of my family's 130 years in the Puget Sound area, I find a pleasure in this weather I hesitate to admit to among those who live to complain. Only a native would understand. A sense of the cozy nest wraps around me as I sit and write, grateful that freelancing means working from home.
      Now is the season of knitting with woolen yarn, a steaming kettle of soup on the stove, and a still life on my 1910 farm table composed of a book I've waited to read, a cup of tea, and the last of the garden's roses, rescued from the storm just in time.
      Spring, so young and pretty, charms everyone. In summer the year reaches adulthood; plants bear fruit, young animals grow, fledglings leave the nest. Fall speaks to me of the poignancy of life. The maturing year compensates for the loss of its youth with a richness and depth of meaning.  Through its ripening colors, the way the sun hangs nearer the horizon, and the cooler nights, it is the beginning of a goodbye.

       In this "season of mists" some blur my vision and fill me with a mellow sadness. I think of my father, who would have been 97 this week if he had not died during the spring. I've written about him in earlier posts like one called "Raking in the Memories." As a decoration for his 90th birthday party, seven years ago, I bought a Christmas cactus covered with blooms in terracotta orange. Today I noticed its especially heavy crop of buds, some open already. When my father's birthday arrives in a few days, the cactus will be in full bloom, right on time. How can nature be so wise?
        Embrace the autumn storms with gratitude. They teach us what to be grateful for: shelter, safety, food, family, and the harvest of a life well-lived, which is respect, and most of all, love.

Rest in peace, Dad.

Text and photos copyrighted by Candace J. Brown 2010

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