This week I walked with a friend to a spot called Hallow Hill.
And the walk was all autumn glory.
I'm hard pressed to pick a favourite season, but Fall and I have a certain understanding. I love the crisp alertness of the air, the pungent smell of decaying leaves, and all of its associations with coziness and sweaters.
And I love fall for it's frankness about mortality; or the frankness it brings about in me.
Autumn is a Memento Mori, a reminder that all things come to an end.
That my life will end.
And there is a glory in nature's submission to the unavoidable fact. She goes out in flaming farewell, saving her most vibrant colours for those unspeakably sparkling October days. Even in her swan song, nature whispers almost inaudibly of the hope of resurrection. The squelching of decomposing leaves will nurture, with its self sacrifice, the verdant springing of new life in a few short (if cold) months.
Wisdom requires that we live in light of death and in hope of resurrection.
In After Virtue, Alasdair MacIntyre reveals how the struggle of characters in the myths of heroic cultures embodied their own ideas of virtuous living. He writes, "To be virtuous is not to avoid vulnerability and death, but rather accord them their due." In each myth, as in each life, the agent is faced with the question: how shall I live knowing I will die?
I thought about this on Hallow Hill.
Today the Church celebrates All Saints Day. It is a day to remember all the lives of holy people who have gone before us. Those who lived and lived well. Whose legacy outlived their years on earth, because like the heroes of the old myths, they lived accorded death its due, while living live's as vibrant as the autumn leaves.
I do not have a simple to answer to such a question. It is the question of all ages. But to embrace mortality is to accept the stakes of reality, and to take them seriously. It is to reckon with fundamental elements of life: limitedness, frailty, and agency. It makes me want to live for that which outlives death.
So, I will always live with a fact and a hope always in mind:
(remember you will die)
(I will rise again).
(remember you will die)
Now that I've philosophized find below some of my fall favourites...
Gerard Manly Hopkins
Glory be to God for dappled things –
For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
Landscape plotted and pieced – fold, fallow, and plough;
And áll trádes, their gear and tackle and trim.
All things counter, original, spare, strange;
Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
Fall EP by Jon Foreman:
One of my favourite albums in the world, full stop, no exceptions. It is a pondering on all the achey things of Autumn, of beauty and learning to die and to love and to watch the Harvest moon.
Anne of Green Gables
To be honest, I'm not sure why this is an autumn story to me. I think it is simply because my family always watched it in the fall, often while peeling apples to make apple sauce for the winter. It takes place over many seasons, but to me Anne lives in an eternal autumn. So join me in my arbitrary ritual watching of Anne of Green Gables for Autumn.
To Autumn by John Keats
(permit me one more poem)
Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;
To bend with apples the moss'd cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For Summer has o'er-brimm'd their clammy cells.
Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
Or on a half-reap'd furrow sound asleep,
Drows'd with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers;
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
Steady thy laden head across a brook;
Or by a cyder-press, with patient look,
Thou watchest the last oozings hours by hours.
Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too -
While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
Among the river sallows, borne aloft
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
The red-breast whistles from a garden-croft;
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.
All for now, friends.