Friday, October 24, 2014

Autumn and Mortality

I have lived for the past four decades in central Florida, where autumn does not really exist, where the rhythm of life is distorted.  Here, a few leaves fall, and in January, the sugar maples turn red, but until Christmas time, usually, the weather remains warm, and the air conditioning is on, at least part of the day. So we are deceived with a sense of endless summer.

We are cheated of a rare beauty, not only of autumn leaves and bare branches shaking in the chilly breeze but of nature's slowing down and preparing to die a bit--a healthy bit of memento mori. 

That's why my wife, Lynn, with her great poetic sense, insisted that we visit friends in Newport, Rhode Island in October. We have just returned with pictures of autumn in New England, the best kind, where leaves turn brilliantly red and yellow next to churches and other structures built during the Revolutionary War period.

The tavern we ate in last week dates from 1676, and our hotel was on Purgatory Road. On Farewell Street, we found several ancient cemeteries, their headstones barely visible after so many centuries of salty air. We came for the trees but savored the history, too, and the pumpkins lined up in front of a white clapboard church visited by George Washington.  Autumn does not get any better, any more American.

And anyone looking for a bit of authentic Halloween in old churchyards on narrow lanes filled with dead leaves or in vast, "haunted" mansions should come to Newport in late October, when the beauty of the island sparkles and its great Ocean Drive is quiet, less traveled.

Such a trip was tiring and expensive but worth it for two people who miss the chill of autumn.  We need occasional reminders to turn inward and reflect, as the year, like our lives, nears its end.


Patrick Murphy said...


I think you recognized me but I did not recognize you at Publix on Sunday. sorry. It took me a little while to realize who you were and you were already checking out. It is good to see that you remain very active writing and publishing. Patrick Murphy (in my fifth year as department chair, again).

Gerald Schiffhorst said...

Thanks, Patrick, for the comment. I wasn't sure it was you, and you seemed seriously bent on finding something. Glad to know you are surviving another round of chairing. Hope to run into you again.
Jerry (