When you are paying attention, you can really learn a lot. But you have to be willing to really look, to really listen and to really, really pay attention. We are so easily distracted these days, living in the information age. Many among us are constantly checking our twitter feed, our Facebook page, our text messages, our email (that would be me) our Linked In page, the Huffington Post, the on-line magazines, the games on our phones. Whew, that’s a lot of checking! And a lot of not looking, not listening, not paying attention to the world around us. The beautiful, sumptuous, bountiful world around us.
This is, after all, harvest time. Most of us don’t think about the planting, growing and reaping seasons any more. So many of us have lost touch with our agricultural roots. (pun intended). My dad was a farmer and he owned grain mills. Harvest time in our family was always a race to the finish. We would take picnic baskets of cold fried chicken, deviled eggs and thermoses of ice tea or hot coffee to daddy while he drove the combine in the fields or weighed in truck after truck filled with corn or wheat at the grain mill. Our family was completely dependent on the fall harvest. Autumn was the pinnacle of the year for us.
Autumn is that bountiful time of the year when all of the hard work of gardeners and farmers come to full fruition, full ripeness. “Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness” as John Keats so beautifully wrote in his poem, “Ode to Autumn.” All of this harvest, this bounty, this ripeness is going on all around us. Are we looking at all the gorgeous fruits and vegetables? Are we tasting the last of the golden peaches, the crunch of a just picked apple, the sweet yellow flesh of an acorn squash? Then, of course, there is the gorgeous parade of fall colors, the leaves turning gold and red, the autumnal pellucid blue skies, the deep blue we only see in the fall.
Autumn is also used as a metaphor for the elderly, the winding down of days for the
aging. Kurt Weill’s December Song, sums it up this way:
Oh, it's a long, long while from May to December,
But the days grow short when you reach September.
When the autumn weather turns the leaves to flame.
And you ain't got time for the waiting game.
We don’t have time to wait or waste. This is a bountiful time in our lives, this time of aging. Just as the fall brings a ripeness, a fullness to things, so our lives are enriched with the bountifulness of our memories and our wisdom. We understand life in a way that younger people simply cannot do. We are older, but we are also bountiful and giving and colorful and beautiful in our maturity, in the richness of our autumn.
Last week, on one of these gorgeous autumn days, I took my two and half year old granddaughter, Ellis Katherine, to the park. As she was swinging, she would close her eyes and turn her little face up to the warmth of the autumn sun. When I took her down from the swing, I asked Ellis if she knew what she wanted to do next at the park. Did she want to play on the slide or in the sand box? Ellis turned her dark, velvety brown eyes on my face and said to me,
“I don’t know. I am just living my life.”
John Keats, Kurt Weill and Ellis Katherine. Pay attention. You could learn something!