For me, autumn has always been the best time.
The chill whisper of wind. Redbrown withered leaves floating mutely to earth. Dawn that feels like dusk. Winter’s shadow.
The benign foretaste of Death, that mysterious woman you’ve seen but never met. Her smug, enigmatic smile. Eyes that tell you nothing but hint at distant passions you’ve never felt, dark hungers you’ve only imagined. You’ve seen what she can do. She’s dangerous. And you can be sure you’ll meet her someday.
In autumn, it’s easier to be my age—sixty-six—because the whole world is feeling its age. But even when I was young, autumn was my favorite. Friends yearned for spring and summer. When I told them I loved the fall, they thought I wasn’t serious, that I was trying to be different. I told them I didn’t have to try.
This morning, an autumn morning, I took a walk in Sherwood Island Park. The water of Long Island Sound, restless, green, almost gray, lapping the Westport Connecticut shore. The sky crowded with darkbellied clouds, riding a sullen leafheavy breeze. The sun, weak and wizened, keeping a low profile. The autumn trees, halfnaked, shivering, ready to hibernate. A couple of other walkers, two or three runners, a few bikers.
Twenty years from now, when everything I’ve learned and felt and believed has disappeared with me, the sun, the Sound, the clouds, the trees will still be here. They don’t learn or feel or believe. But they’ll still be here.
A couple of months ago, astronomers saw what none had seen before: the earliest stages of a supernova explosion, the birth of a star’s death. A telescope on a manmade satellite happened to focus on the right place at the right time. When they made the announcement they looked star-struck, eyes glowing, proud, humble, like a thirteen-year-old boy after a wet dream.
One astronomer said, “Given the distance of that star and the speed of light, what we saw a few days ago happened more than 80 million years ago.”
When the light from that simmering explosion started toward us, the dinosaurs were still throwing their weight around. On that scale, you and I just arrived at the party.
So why am I worried about my paltry eighty years, if I live that long? My life? Not even a sandgrain on the beach. But, hey, it’s my sandgrain.