I love autumn. I love the smell of the leaves and the chill in the air. And although summertime really is when the living is easy, it's during autumn that I feel the most hope for the future.
There is something about autumn that is paradoxical. On one hand, it is a season of death and decay: perennials wilt, leaves fall and salmon return to spawn and die.
The cooling weather and the shortened days foreshadow long, dark winter nights. All the warmth of summer has left and ahead rests the gloom of winter.
Yet there's something reflective and almost renewing about the season. Autumn is the season where time seems to hesitate and people seem to allow themselves the time to slow down and to think.
Autumn evokes images of woodsmoke, walks through the woods and evenings by a fire.
Many people, it seems, share similarly ambivalent feelings about the season.
They lament the loss of summer and dread the approaching winter, but they appreciate the change that the autumn affords them.
Unlike winter, which drags on far too long, or summer, which flits from one thing to the next, or spring, which seems to demand too much industry, autumn has a tranquil, almost meditative pace to it.
The weather cools and people turn inward, both physically and emotionally. Evenings are longer and time seems to draw out so people tend to read more, to cook more, to love more and they probably talk more.
Even the word autumn itself is a bit of a puzzle. Etymologists are unsure of the root of the word, suggesting that it may derive from aroot word meaning increase or it may come from the word meaning "drying-up season."
Both seem plausible.
And the season hasn't even always been referred to as autumn. Before the 1500s, harvest was the word of choice and many people in North America refer to it as fall.
No other season has such an identity crisis.
But regardless of what you call it, the season does have associations with feelings of melancholy. In his poem "The Burning of Leaves," Laurence Binyon identifies autumn as "the time for stripping the spirit bare."
In literature, of course, autumn represents the latter stages of one's life, and Binyon suggests that it is the time of life when one must take stock "of days ended and done."
The season has that quality about it. It's a time to think about the year that is winding down and to reflect upon the convoluted and tumultuous course that life sometimes takes.
It's a time to tie up loose ends before settling into the pause that is winter.
Just as new life will emerge from the death and decay, so autumn's melancholy offers hope.
Autumn is a time to recharge and, although we have still have to pass through the darkness of winter, there is the promise of a bright future.
"Nothing is certain," as Binyon would have it, "only the certain spring."