As we glory in nature’s transformation to shades of amber, orange and crimson, there comes a moment when we realize that there are more leaves on the ground than on the trees. What was a brilliant cacophony of color up above is becoming a crazy quilt down below. They don’t call it fall for nothing.
It’s easy to feel melancholy as you anticipate the raking, blowing and mulching to come. It’s past time to put the gardens to bed. The almost bare trees are awaiting the first frosting of winter, to be brightened only temporarily by the twinkling lights of the holiday season.
But wait. Before you get to work, take a moment to savor this unique joy of nature in this late autumn season. Yes, joy.
Think about what we’re witnessing and the special nature of this transitional season. Those fallen leaves, flying about in the autumn breezes as if laughing at our attempts to contain them, the distinctive rustle underfoot, the sweet nutty scent in the air – all this holds a special place in our hearts and minds. If we stop to take in the world around us, we find that it evokes a sense of nostalgia, awakens the child within us, and reminds us of the cyclical nature of life.
So here I’m offering 5 ways to enjoy late autumn, this pause between brilliant fall and bare winter.
1. Listen To Your Inner Child
Remember those childhood memories? Dad raked leaves into towering piles as we joyfully leapt into them, scattering them all over again. The laughter, the sense of adventure, and the feeling of weightlessness as we dive into the pile are experiences that stay with us throughout our lives.
Can you hear the children in the neighborhood laughing? Have you raked a pile for the children in your lives? Have you spread your arms and fallen back into your own pile? Can you hear yourself laugh out loud?
It’s ok. Do it.
2. Walk in the woods
It’s time to take a hike in the woods, kicking through the carpet alone or with friends and family. The air is crisp, but we warm up fast, stripping off the jackets to tie them around our waists, our cheeks rosy.
Leaves continue to fall around us, like a hailstorm of feathers. We can see the sky, crows cawing, squirrels frenetically scooting from tree to tree. There’s something both calming and anticipatory, as if nature has paused to take stock before plunging into its deep winter sleep.
3. Connect to Seasonal Traditions
Autumn is a season steeped in tradition and celebration. This is a transition period from leaf peeping to Halloween and Thanksgiving, before the bustle of the Christmas season. Apple picking, mums and corn mazes are making way for ghouls and witches. Jack-o-lanterns, skeletons, mocked up graveyards and witches crashing into trees adorn our front yards, joining our fading mums and cornstalk pillars.
Inside, we alternately open and close our windows with the vagaries of the outside temperature and turn our thoughts to cold weather meals – hearty soups and stews, roasts, late season vegetables and apple everything.
4. Make Leaves into Art
It’s inevitable that admiration of autumn’s beauty leads us to turning the abundant leaves to crafting, because New Englanders are nothing if not creative with what is given us. Leaves are pressed between book pages, ironed between sheets of wax paper, framed, used in greeting cards, wrapped around candles tied with twine, and incorporated into wreaths along with acorns and pine cones. Leaf rubbings delight us with intricate designs, and sometimes, well, we just photograph them.
5. Contemplate the Cycle of Renewal
Autumn leaves serve as a poignant reminder of the cyclical nature of life. As they fall to the ground, they mark the end of one chapter and the beginning of another. The process of decay and decomposition of fallen leaves enriches the soil, providing nourishment for the next generation of trees and plants.
They provide habitat and food for various insects and small animals. Many species of butterflies, moths, and beetles lay their eggs on leaves, and decomposing leaves host a diverse community of microorganisms that support the broader ecosystem.This is why we find ourselves mulching the leaves where they lie on the lawn and blowing them into our garden beds as a winter blanket. Cleanup is easier in these days of ecological awareness.
Fall in Love with late autumn
Autumn offers a treasure trove of experiences that touch our hearts and souls. From the brilliant visual display of changing colors to the soothing sounds of leaves at our feet, from childhood playfulness to the profound symbolism of renewal, autumn leaves bring joy to our lives in countless ways.
This season serves as a reminder of the beauty and resilience of nature, the importance of tradition and community, and the value of living in the present moment. So, as you take your next walk through a leaf-strewn park, embrace the season, and let it fill your heart.