Let Autumn Lift Your Spirits

Autumn is a new beginning, a second spring.

Posted Oct 14, 2014

Public Domain
"By the Spring, Autumn" by Paul Gauguin 1885
Source: Public Domain

I associate spring with new life. I associate autumn with new beginnings in the midst of my well-worn life. F. Scott Fitzgerald echoed this sentiment:

Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall.           

Frankly, I’m worn out by the end of summer. The oppressive heat of California’s Central Valley takes its toll on plant and animal alike, including humans. That first crisp fall morning when I need to put on a sweater before going outside is one of my favorite moments of the year. It feels like a new beginning.

By the end of summer, the trees and bushes in my neighborhood look as if they need a facelift. Just in time, along come autumn’s cool nights that turn the leaves into spectacular shades of yellow, orange, red, and purple. Even though I know that these bright colors signal that the leaves are about to die, the colors lift my drooping summer spirits. As William Cullen Bryant put it:

 Autumn, the year’s last, loveliest smile.

Albert Camus appreciated the color of autumn’s leaves so much that he referred to them as a second spring:   

Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.

George Eliot loved autumn too:         

Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns.

As did Emily Bronte:

Every leaf speaks bliss to me

Fluttering from the autumn tree.

As a child growing up in Los Angeles, I barely noticed the seasons. One seemed to run into one another. Until I moved to northern California, I didn’t know that autumn colors could be so beautiful.

There was one thing, however, that I loved about autumn in Los Angeles. Whether bicycling to and from school or just cruising around the neighborhood on my trusty three-gear Schwinn, I loved to ride over the leaves that had fallen into the gutter so I could listen to the sound of them crunching under my wheels. I even picked streets to ride on based on the crunch quality of their leaves. I was always disappointed when the first rainfall made the leaves too soggy to sing and took away my fun.

We can even learn to find beauty on an autumn day when we feel sad. Walking on a dark day, Robert Frost opened his heart to his sorrow and let it reveal to him the beauty in the rain and in the bare, withered tree:

My sorrow, when she's here with me, thinks these dark days of autumn rain are beautiful as days can be; she loves the bare, the withered tree; she walks the sodden pasture lane.

On a philosophical note, I love this quotation from Samuel Johnson:

No man can taste the fruits of autumn while he is delighting his scent with the flowers of spring.

To appreciate the present, we have to let go of the past. This means delighting in spring flowers while they last, but not expecting their scent to last forever. When our minds are lost in thoughts about the past, we miss what this moment has to offer. Even if this moment isn’t as pleasant as the scent of spring flowers, appreciating whatever fruits it does have to offer brings with it a sense of peace and well-being with our lives.

Here is Hal Borland sounding the same sentiment as Johnson:

Summer ends, and Autumn comes, and he who would have it otherwise would have high tide always and a full moon every night.

We can try to fashion every aspect of our experience to be to our liking and seek to have it stay that way—a tide that’s high and a moon that’s full—but it would be a futile endeavor and a recipe for disappointment and unhappiness because the universal law of impermanence will always have its way.

I’ll end by turning Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s poem into a challenge:

The one red leaf, the last of its clan,


That dances as often as dance it can,


Hanging so light, and hanging so high,


On the topmost twig that looks up at the sky.

Can you find something in your life that's as joyful as that last dancing red leaf?

***

May we find peace in this season of maturity and new beginnings.

© 2014 Toni Bernhard. Thank you for reading my work. I'm the author of four books:

How to Be Sick: Your Pocket Companion (for those who read How to Be Sick and for those who haven't). May 2020

How to Be Sick: A Buddhist-Inspired Guide for the Chronically Ill and Their Caregivers (Second Edition) 2018

How to Live Well with Chronic Pain and Illness: A Mindful Guide (2015)

How to Wake Up: A Buddhist-Inspired Guide to Navigating Joy and Sorrow (2013)

All of my books are available in audio format from Amazon, audible.com, and iTunes.

Visit www.tonibernhard.com for more information and buying options.

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