On the Other Side of Autumn

I smelled it coming last week, but it didn’t arrive until today. It smelled like autumn, it was warm rain, ticklish; it was musty with diamond dew and faded memories of running through these trees at our old church camp site, redwood trees tickling the clouds and the sweet fragrance of pine cones and the pricks of needles in my shoes. That’s the kind of place where the mist envelops your eyes and causes you to blink, over and over and over again. Memories of the bell ringing on the steeple, calling us in for dinner as we would push past adults with understanding smiles to get to turkey and gravy and pumpkin pie, stuffing ourselves and running back out into the wild, pretending we were secret agents.

But there it was again in a different form, carrying us back from LA through the fertile fields of the Central Valley, sunlight streaking over our heads and we drove back and debated whether we were old or not. That previous night at the wedding I asked my table if they’d ever really felt old, and that maybe the better question was whether we ever wished we were young again. We all laughed it off, or at least a bit nervously. I wonder if there’s a slight terror to the feeling of it overcoming us, afraid that maybe one day we’d wake up and feel some gloom of extra gravity and it’d hit us: oh crap and we’d carry this fear to our twenty-fifth year high school reunions, strung ‘round our necks like medallions. But there rushing past sunkissed fields listening to country crooners I wondered if I’d ever really grow old, with the sun on my back and laughter, sweet laughter around me.

I think the warmth of autumn reminds me that all things must change, they must grow and move in season. One day I know I must be old, and I will have known a love that is young and weathered, resilient and yielding and tested True. I will have known the courage of a little boy, spoken to the weighty fears of my young man self, into the maturity that awaits on the other side, the line that we will not know we have crossed until the leaves have long since changed their color.

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