“It is no wonder, then, that at this peculiar time, this week (or moment) of the year, 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
I think that some men, like Belloc, act as weathervanes. They make more manifest what could be noticed without them. Yet we are grateful for the helpful pointer.
Seasons evoke specific thoughts and feelings. Surely, this is a gift, if only we receive it. When Belloc writes “and all men feel” certain desires in autumn, we find ourselves thinking: oh, yes, indeed we do.
Earlier in the essay he wrote, “Whatever permanent, uneasy question is native to men, comes forward most insistent and loud at such times”—such as at the fall of leaves. But even though it is loud and insistent, we do not necessarily hear it, or tune in to it. And more, we do not necessarily wrestle with the question, especially as it is an ‘uneasy’ one.
Add to this that there are many things in our lives today that are insistent and loud—and they are not, as the leaves are, suggesting that we turn to what matters. Thus the fall of leaves might indeed pass us by as the wipers of our car and the blowers on our street brush them aside.
Or we can stop and receive what the fall of leaves offers us: yet another occasion to ask and to wonder about the one thing that matters.
Here we might think especially of the young and the old. How are they experiencing autumn? Perhaps now in a special way they need someone—even if they don’t know it and would never say it. They need someone to observe and to feel with them; to remember with them; to look forward with them; in hope.
I dare say we can be masters of avoiding even the loud and insistent voices within us, or around us, in the trees, or in our loved ones. But we can also choose to attend. And perhaps we begin with an autumn walk—or, oh joy, perhaps even a hike. Or just sitting in the yard or woods; or looking out a window together.
Our proper response to the problems of our society and our world always begins in our home, which includes our yard, and our neighborhood. Simply enacting what is truly human has incomparable power for healing and renewal. Incomparable.
“The leaves are hardly heard, but they are heard just so much that men also, who are destined at the end to grow glorious and to die, look up and hear them falling.” Look up, and hear them falling! What an astounding thing to do. Especially together. And it is within our power.
Two video shorts to share some simple joys of my home this season:
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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.
Ha! Autumn as a harbinger of decline and death beguiled me for 40 or more years. Every season I anticipated raking monstrous piles of leaves and dragging them to the curb, etc. Then we moved to Ecuador in 2017, where there are no sun-related seasons. No Fall, no leaves, just year ’round green. It’s hard to mark time in any grand sense.
Bit about Autumn I wrote awhile back: https://platytera.blogspot.com/2008/10/ode-to-joy.html
Sorry you don’t have autumn way down south–though I’m sure you get a few other things in the trade.
That is a very beautiful reflection on an autumn day in Greenville. Thanks for sharing.
Hello John, Geoff and I are on our way home to Australia after 2 weeks in Vienna. We stayed one block from Schloss SchonBrunn and I spent hours each day exercising, wandering, sitting, reading and contemplating in the acres of park. We were blessed with perfect Autumn weather and I agree that the falling leaves, and seeing the changes in the garden over that time, did lead my mind to more important thoughts. I did ponder on what matters most to me and had that reinforced by the quiet time in nature, and with God. I chose to practise my German at every opportunity and I discovered that people love to connect, talk, laugh and to feel that they are listened to. Even from a stranger, perhaps more so. A smile and a good morning/hello and a prayer later for those I spoke with, blessed us both. I hope all is well in your household. Cate
Cate, What a wonderful image to take with us–being in a park blessed by the splendors of fall, and blessing those around you with a warm openenness and thoughtful words. I would have loved to be there!
The fall and then late winter always bring out these thoughts & feelings in me as far back as I can remember. Even as a child, I sensed a certain uneasiness when the leaves changed and, later, when the days warmed a bit, snow became slush, and the sky & air were gray and dank. Reminders of the fleeting nature of life while leading into the seasons of renewal. Thanks for adding this perspective!
It is so interesting to hear a testimony to the truth of Belloc’s words, that the deeper questions come forth ‘loud and insistent.’ Surely this is a gift–even if not always comfortable.
“Our proper response to the problems of our society and our world always begins in our home, which includes our yard, and our neighborhood. Simply enacting what is truly human has incomparable power for healing and renewal. ”
I love this. If everyone is so busy trying to change the world, the home (i.e. family) will suffer and bring about more destruction to society. Thank you so much for all of your wise words.
And thank you, Heidi. It is a blessing to hear that this thought resonates.