Saturday, October 30, 2010

Autumn Leaves

I made a playlist of autumn music the other day. As I listened to it yesterday, I noticed how sad most of the songs were. Except for those few songs about harvest, songwriters conceive of autumn as an ending, a dying. This was across genres: folk, pop, rock—the classical pieces I picked were about the harvest, so I'll exclude them. If the song had autumn in the title, it was mournful.

I've always loved the fall, so this perspective came as a surprise to me. Growing up on a farm, the fall was a time of hard work, harvest bounty, and then in the late fall, the preparation for a time of lying fallow, of having a well-deserved rest. There was nothing sad about any of that. This is a time of culmination and celebration of the whole year's work! What could be more satisfying than picking the dozen butternut squash from the vines that spread across the side of my yard this summer?

You shall observe the festival of harvest, of the first fruits of your labor, of what you sow in the field. You shall observe the festival of ingathering at the end of the year, when you gather in from the field the fruit of your labor. Exodus 23:16

My mother has always loved the autumn colors and would exclaim over the hillsides of quaking yellow-gold aspens and the reds of the brush oak beneath. It was sometimes tedious as a child, but now I too have that appreciation. At the end of my street the maple trees in the cemetery across the way have been a show for the past month, and my daughter has confessed to being distracted by the brilliant colors of a tree outside of one of her classroom windows. We have learned to appreciate and savor the beauty of the season.

So, I don't know whether the sad tone of these songs reflects our fears of maturity and culmination versus the excitement of youth and beginnings, or is a commentary on how distant we've become from the cycle of the seasons, but today I want to celebrate the crisp autumn air, the harvest of the work of our gardens and our lives, the beauty of each leaf as it just lets go and drifts to the next phase of its life. Carrie Newcomer's song, Leaves don't drop, (they just let go), says it well:

Leaves don't drop, they just let go,
And make a place for seeds to grow.
Every season brings a change;
A seed is what a tree contains;
To die and live is life's refrain.

Today, take the time to scuff through a pile of leaves, find some moments to let yourself rest and lie fallow and quiet, and eat some squash. May we find some leaf-like moments this autumn day where we just let go and make room for seeds to grow anew.

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