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Mid-October…. and the winds of change have arrived….again.

Summer held on tight this year, warm nights and hot days continued through to the end of September, a bonus for seasonal activities. I recall my childhood summers as time embraced with grand enthusiasm; days full of carefree, run-amok fun, when I dressed in pedal-pushers just skimming above my band-aid plastered knees, and wore a perpetual sun-kissed nose over a grape kool-aid mustache.  Those happy-go-lucky hours of freedom ended only when the street lights began to shine and my mother’s voice insisted I come inside.

As much as summer was my favorite time for play, even as a child, I loved autumn the best. Pondering that now,  I think that is because autumn is nature’s lesson to me about transitions and serves to nudge me into personal growth.

I know that may be different than the way others think about the season. Traditionally, January is the time for new beginnings, made official with midnight confetti and champagne and fresh calendars for minding resolutions.  Most would also agree that springtime is the time for fresh starts….all that budding and blooming and spring rain to coax sleeping things back to green.

But autumn….it inspires me, stirs me forward.

My birthday at the end of August coincides with the change of season, marking the passage of time and offering a fresh year ahead of me with a new number attached to it; a year full of possibilities…a year that I’m not yet disappointed over opportunities squandered or discouraged with regrets over mistakes made. My birthday is my own personal ‘new year’ celebration, day one of ‘what may be’.

When September rings in with school bells, I recall my excitement on the first days of each school year. Mom always made sure that I had new  clothes for a fresh start, ironed and starched and polished…even my attire lacked history, a clean slate of sorts, implying forward progress.  With arms full of supplies from crayons and glue to fresh notebook paper tucked into a brand new binder, I was ready to greet the teacher and anticipated meeting more friends and begin learning. Those early school experiences imprinted upon me that when shifts occur in life, preparedness and a sense of hopeful expectancy go a long way toward positive outcomes.

By the time October arrives, nature impresses us with tastes and scents and colors of the season. Memories of October and November include those of gathering pecans in my grandmother’s back yard with my brother and sisters then skipping with them into the house where the adults cracked the hard shells, resulting with my Grammy producing the sweetest, creamiest southern pralines ever tasted.  The scents of the buttermilk and sugar cooking in my own October kitchen today takes me straight back to that time.  Fresh apples made into cider or tart pie, pumpkins carved for decoration, the sudden crisp cold snap in the air prompting us to run back indoors for a jacket, cheering at football games, planning for Halloween costumes, the crackle of logs in the fire and earthy smell of wood smoke, the crunch of dry leaves underfoot while hiking, arriving home for dinner when it is already dark and seeing the warm glow of family within….these are the heart tugs of autumns of my memory.

But the colors of autumn….Oh the colors! Maples blazing red.  Cottonwoods shimmering in brilliant gold.  Orange and crimson and purple beckoning our attention upward, the brown and sage of prairie grasses waving around our knees…..the  world drenched in shades of glory…. evidence before our very eyes, that change is beautiful.   In all these things, we experience the extravagance of creation, we savor its bounty.

Inevitably, the hues of autumn dull into the stark, quiet, gray landscape of December, when nature is bared clear down to branch and bark in graceful acquiescence.   Creation shows us that events which alter us can also be unsettling, unnerving…they can strip our contentment and even our exciting accomplishments, leaving the most tender parts of us exposed. Even then, solid roots developed through all the seasons of life remain…. strong, resilient, steadfast.

As days turn to seasons turn to years, we are prompted time and again to exchange who we are now for who we are to become.   Whether those transitions bring joy or shake us to the core, autumn reassures us that glory requires change.