A spent toad graced the left rut of my driveway this morning, an unfortunate casualty of the early morning commuters. I’ll spare you pictures–mostly because the phone was in the house whilst I mounted my morning walk investigation–but this was a large toad when he lived in three dimensions. Now, as most of him–but not all–has converted over to the 2D world, our man appears even larger, yet at the same time, not so large at all. Gone. Just like that.

I’m really not interested in a soapbox on the fleetingness of life, and probably, neither are you. But there was that wrecked toad, so much larger than the bypassed earthworms, so much closer and more colorful than the deer carcass I drove by yesterday, and so much harder to sidestep than any of them.

And, well, fall is all around me, and it begs to be spoken of.

And fall is death, right? The natural world winding down for the year, the leaves dying their slow deaths, the critters hunkering down or tapping out, the undergrowth shriveling back to the earth and letting the waning light of the sun back in. Death is all around.

It begs the question, since I’m not the hugest fan of death and rot, why is it that fall is unequivocally my favorite time of year?

I need the seasons. I need the change. I need it all to cycle through, to remind me over and over and over again of all the lessons, from the first trickles of spring to the crunch of a million oak leaves and back around the horn again to the beginning. I love every season for it’s own plethora of reasons, but for each, I love it most for its newness. It’s the changing of the guards that gets me most twitterpated. Life is in the transitions, they say (do they? 🤔), and oh, how true it is.

Nevertheless, Autumn. Sigh. Lordy, do I love it.

For me, fall is not death at all. Fall is the very beginnings of rebirth. It is the first inklings that this is not all there is.

Contrary to the the critics, fall is not death, but a new surge of life. It’s when we send all our energy back down into our roots, to sustain us through winter. We soak up those low and slow rays. We bask in the warming colors of the day and relax into the growing darkness of the nights. We bundle up, hold the heat. Fall is not death, but a moving of life, deeper.

Aesthetically, it is this time of year that we look around us at the mess we’ve created all year, and begin the annual mopping up, getting ourselves and our homes ready for the long winter’s rest. We prepare for something new to come in the spring, and do our best to clean the slate, wipe the canvas, give ourselves the best chance for a Bob Ross spring (and winter, for that matter), one clear of as much redneck ornamentalism as possible. The warm-weather gear is stowed and hidden, leaving a more natural landing zone for those drifts of pristine whiteness. The hoses and the miscellany are put up and away, lest they mar the sodden landscape of the eventual coming spring melt. The den is decluttered, a nesting of sorts in anticipation of the first strike of the fireplace matches. And speaking of the fireplace, the wood is cut and split and stacked, all in anticipation of warmth inside and out.

The work is done now, so that the enjoyment as we pass through the cold can be maximized, and the kicking of ourselves in the spring minimized.

Spiritually, autumn is nourishment, of a whole different kind. It is the time of deep root feeding, and not just for the trees. There is so much cold and so much quiet coming. A blanket will soon fall, and we will be left with only the reserves we’ve built up. Color will be all but gone, drained away into the shades of gray and brown, and if we’re lucky, enough white to clean it up, and enough blue to stave off the pressure of monochromia. Fall is the time for that building. What will we take with us into the darkness?

I for one am storing up the color. I’m drinking it up this year. I don’t want to miss a single tick on the fall color meter. I’m sending all that saturation, the intense blues of the autumn skies, the gold of this fortunate sun, the wild and undulating fire that will soon consume these lush green hills, even the brightness of the evergreens that will somehow darken to black with time, I’m sending it all inside, to build up a scaffold of sorts. A little collage of color to keep me warm through the winter.

I’m slowing the pace, letting go of all that is spent and done, and embracing the routine that will sustain me. Taking the time to read great books and listen to great music. Leaning into this empty nest. Embracing what is here: a beloved home, a wonderful marriage, a loving family (however far-flung), and faithful friends. This hermit is hunkering down, but also making a point to spend time with the tribe, lest the hermit turn crotchety(er).

And taking a little trip up to the Big Lake. Let’s not forget that most important part of each autumn.

If you need me, I’ll be on my way to Superior,

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