It rained in the morning. We hadn’t had any wet for weeks. The day before, my husband had watered the dry young boxwoods we planted this summer. I wasn't the only one waiting for rain. The birds were ecstatic, swooping through the yard on wings of wind and bobbing for seeds in the soft earth. The fat, red and gray squirrels scampered past my window sniffing for alms in the shape of almonds and walnuts I leave scattered on the deck, and then chased each other through the bare thickets and spreading yews in the back garden with a kind of gather ye rosebuds while ye may approach to the withering end of the year.
It was a gray day with smoke steaming from the chimney across the way. I made berry muffins for breakfast instead of the usual toast or oatmeal because, besides the rain, cold was also beginning to fall from the sky. In our house, muffins are a comfort food. So was the deeply beefy brisket and barley soup I made for lunch. Cold weather pleads for the comfort of hearty food and hearth fires. Even so, my husband offered to barbeque the garlic and rosemary chicken breasts I was marinating in the fridge for dinner. Nothing but a foot of snow on the deck will keep that man from the barbeque. He was born in southern climes and possesses a carpe diem attitude to cooking out of doors.
We have passed a lovely Autumn in Chicago. Bright days cool enough for a jacket, but warm enough to work in the garden, or go for a walk in the sunshine in order to soak up a portion of the season’s bounty. Days made to gather polished horse chestnuts newly hatched from their husks, windfalls of pinecones and sunburnt leaves. Moments ripe for plucking before the long, slow sleep of winter.
My diem’s, however, were carped more by the mundane than the magical this fall, and I know that when the earth lies barren beneath a blanket of snow, and the view outside my window is bereft of color I will feel a pang of regret. Autumn in this part of the country is too brief to let fall to the ground untouched. It should be gathered in great armfuls before it is cast onto the fire or carted away to the dust heaps.
As I pass through the autumn of my life, as this husk begins to wither, there remains yet within me the soul of a polished conker or of a burning leaf falling in its brief, bright arc to the earth. It is my hope and longing that I will seize these days with attention and intention and with all the unmitigated joy of a robin or squirrel on a rainy day in fall.