It begins with sound.
Mother Nature reminds me; she snaps, crackles and pops as dry leaves rhythmically flatten under my sandaled feet.
It's still in the upper 80s, but fall has arrived. Hummingbirds take last sips at the bird feeder. They spin by, cleverly dodging thin willow oak leaves that turn and drop at the rumor of a breeze.
I watch the leaves fall outside my office window.
Their descent to the earth seems patient and graceful. They seem to accept their death. They return to the earth that gave them life with such ease, such gentleness.
Would that I moved with that slow grace, that I could accept this change of season.
Fall has always been my favorite time of year. In the Midwest, where I grew up, it was short and ended magically with sweet snowfalls. Four or five months later, the snowfalls were less magical and no longer so sweet.
But our short autumns were bright and cheerful. I remember the clean, crisp air and the tang of ripe apples. Fall meant pumpkin pie and multicolored corn stalks. It meant looking out at green grass spotted, Monet-like, with a palette of gold, orange and red leaves.
In the Piedmont, where I've lived longer than anywhere else, fall stretches out like a dancer. (Except that fall reaches through time, while a dancer reaches through space).
Fall can still be present on a December day. Bare branches weave lacy patterns against a crystal-blue sky, and all anyone could ask for is a light sweater and walking shoes.
This fall, however, I do not I do not happily await the gold and orange, the red and pale green of trees on fire with the life that is leaving them.
I do not feel ready for a change of seasons.
The only change that has caused me spontaneous joy was the sight of bright red seeds on the cones of my magnolia tree. Maybe it was the buoyant redness emerging from dusty brown, emblematic of new life.
This year, I am too conscious of how fast the seasons change, too aware that time passes quickly and all things end.
The falling leaves make me think of death and loss. It was a year for both in my house.
I am on the other side of 50 now, and the other side lies ahead. I hope the walk will be long. I'd like a more leisurely pace, a softer step.
I don't want the seasons to change so much. They just remind me that time slips away.
So I've been rooting for the leaves to remain green far beyond their time . Rebel, I tell them. Resist Mother Nature. Resist change.
For that is what I am doing.
I know it is futile. Fall has arrived. I can hear it crunching under my sandaled feet.
May I learn, then, to walk with a leisurely pace and a softer step.