“Whatever permanent, uneasy question is native to men comes forward most insistent and most loud at the fall of leaves. … It is no wonder, then, that at this peculiar time…the desires which if they do not prove at least demand–perhaps remember–our destiny, come strongest. They are proper to the time of autumn, and all men feel them.”
Hilaire Belloc, ‘The Autumn and the Fall of Leaves’ in Hills and the Sea
Belloc speaks of two things native to all men: a permanent, uneasy question and some deep desire. He suggests that these tend to come to the fore in autumn, at the fall of leaves.
Trees are always speaking to us. Sometimes they speak more insistently.
It would be hard not to notice the change of color and the falling of leaves. Whence and whither all this pageantry? I must say that in autumn I feel a little on edge; it’s as though I’m going to miss something. The leaves are changing, and they are going away. Indeed, they are dying.
Death can be very beautiful; it is also very hard. And we miss miss people, and things.
The deep desire I tend to feel in autumn is for stability; especially the stability of being with loved ones; of being at home. I think the uneasy question is: how can I achieve that stability, where can it ultimately be found? It seems elusive.
I’m convinced the trees have the answer. In any case they plod along, slowly and surely, with what seems an air of confidence, striving to become more fully what they already are. I for one will keep watching, trying to learn from them, especially in autumn.
Hilaire Belloc (1870-1953), born of a French father and English mother, was a poet, historian, and essayist.
Image: leaves of the sassafras tree. My father always loved the sassafras, of which Donald Peattie wrote in his great book A Natural History of North American Trees:
“Against the Indian summer sky, a tree lifts up its hand and testifies to glory, the glory of a blue October day. Yellow or orange, or blood orange, or sometimes almost salmon pink, or blotched with bright vermilion, the leaves of the Sassafras prove that not all autumnal splendor is confined to the northern forests. Deep into the South, along the snake-rail fences, beside the soft wood roads, in old fields where the rusty brook sedge is giving way to the return of forest, the Sassafras carries its splendid banners to vie with the scarlet Black Gum and the yellow Sweet Gum and other trees of which the New Englander may hardly have heard. The deep blue fruits on thick bright red stalks complete a color effect in fall which few trees anywhere surpass.”
Join the Community.
Become a LifeCraft Member and gain access to our online courses and exclusive content. It's FREE of charge. Period.
If you join as a contributing member, you will help make this content available to an increasing audience and enable me to spend more time in this work. I thank you in advance.
Join the LifeCraft community today and get access to:
- Man of the Household (Course)
- Woman of the Household (Course)
- Concepts Made Clear (Mini-course)
- Dinner at Home (Mini-course)
Friendship and the Conversations that Really Matter
“One must always tell what one sees.” Charles Peguy So many great conversations never happen. There is nothing like sharing insights with a friend into things that matter, and even things that don’t matter so much. But why is it so difficult? One of the great...
What Makes Home a Home
The words ‘home at last’ are uniquely powerful. The desire to be at home is so deeply rooted in us that we don’t question it. If we see these words on a tombstone we scarcely notice; or we smile and think, of course. In the end where else would one want to be? It is...
Hospitality: Finding Our Way Home
It is perhaps a sign of our times that we speak of a hospitality ‘industry.’ Rooms-for-the-night and meals away from home can certainly be bought and sold. But hospitality is something no exchange of money will ever effect. Hospitality is intimately tied with being...
Husband, father, and professor of Philosophy. LifeCraft springs from one conviction: there is an ancient wisdom about how to live the good life in our homes, with our families; and it is worth our time to hearken to it. Let’s rediscover it together. Learn more.
Thank you, Dr. Cuddeback. Your posts are always inspiring.
Thank you, Angela. I love to pass along things that have inspired me.
Thanks for sharing this quote and reflection. It is always good to hear what the wise men have to say. God Bless!
Thank you Dr. Cuddeback,
I sit on my mom’s porch for one of the final times as I write this. Her chair gently speaking her absence. I’ve attempted a batch of her famous spaghetti sauce; it’s been simmering all afternoon. The house smells like tradition. My brothers and our families prepare to gather at the table.Your post yesterday came as we held her hand at her bedside as she passed away. The golden, amber, and deep red leaves glowing on the hills in the sunlight do indeed allude to something greater. A more profound, beautiful, slow, steady plan. I am more thankful and blessed by the trees reminder and your post than you can possibly know.
Malia! How beautiful. I am very sorry to hear of your mother’s passing; but I am so glad that you were able to be with her. What a profound and unique blessing. Always to be remembered. You will all be in my prayers. Thank you again so much for sharing this with us.