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Falling for Autumn

Manic in Manila

I have always loved autumn – in fact, I am head-over-leaves in love with it. It is, in my opinion, perhaps the most picturesque of seasons – with spring coming in a close second. In this most stunning of seasons that starts in September (in many countries across the Northern Hemisphere, at least), leaves turn all shades of gold, russet, red: a riot of hues so intense and disarming. The delicately crisp chill in the air, akin to biting into the freshest of apples, exists in happy contrast with the rich warmth that fetes the  eyes. It is among Natures’ most marvelous of multisensory miracles.

Street sweepers might disagree and raise their brooms up in protest; but poets, writers, artists and everyday folk, alike, have long sung the praises of autumn. Or, should I say “Autumn,” capitalized “A” – pleading poetic license in reference to the seasonal Muse?

Ok, ok; maybe that comes across too pretentious for comfort. This installment of Manic in Manila is going to wax philosophic enough, without capitalization issues.

On a side note, you’ve been warned: this will test your gray matter. But, if you hang in there, it may also enrich your soul.

Of course, those of us who live on the Philippine side of the Northern Hemisphere know that Fall Fashion is, perhaps, as close to autumn as we get. Around this time of year, the more fashion-forward of us break out the leather and layer on the fabric in an attempt to keep up with the dictates of style. I happen to love Fall Fashion; but I also happen to loathe sticky, sweat-infused clothing – the unavoidable fate of the fashion-foolish. Fashion horses smelling like actual horses is a thought I find rather unappealing. So, I keep the leather-and-layering, much as I adore these, down to a minimum and use them only when I am assured of crisp air-conditioned indoor temperatures. As a dear friend of mine says, in Manila, your jacket or coat are for use INDOORS. Truer words have never been spoken.

Oh, and in Manila, also, leaf-riddled streets are less an indicator of the autumn equinox and more a marker of generally underpaid street sweepers.

Sigh.

Nonetheless, my love affair with autumn burns hotter, with the passing of time.

Inspirations of Fall

Autumn is as captivating to the eye as it is to the human spirit.

It is as inspired, as it is inspiring.

Something about the season lends itself to an introspection of an almost sublime nature; musings and meditations run deep, this time of year. It is a time of soul searching and taking pause, if you will. In fact, I would take this a step further and say that something about this season stirs up this introspection, as wind through leaves; swirling on the ground.

Each leaf, at their life span’s end, falling from their life source; symbolic of the cycles of human life: the loss of innocence that generally accompanies maturity; the unavoidable cycle of aging; the laying to rest of dreams and ambitions, perchance.

Maybe this is why I am more obsessed with autumn, with the passing of each year – as I get older, I realize that all is temporary; all is fleeting. I realize that I am pushing 50 – OMG! As such, I see the value of the everyday, even the mundane, all the more clearly. I see what matters and what are simply mere distractions – I don’t pretend to be wiser, mind you, just more in tune with myself.

Odes to Autumn

Throughout time, there have been many men and women who have expressed their autumnal sentiments in the form of poetry: Percy Bysshe Shelley’s “Ode to the West Wind” (1820), Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s “The Autumn” (1833), Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s “Autumn Song” (1883); a few among many odes to Autumn.

Then, of course, there is the well-loved poem by Robert Frost (one of my personal favorite poets) “Nothing Gold Can Stay,” the published version of which came out in 1923. While this poem alludes to spring, there is also a heavy allusion to fall (both the season of fall and the Edenic fall of humanity). Life is a cycle. And what better representation of the cycle of life than the cycles of nature?

Take even just the first of the rhyme’s eight lines: “Nature’s first green is gold, her hardest hue to hold.” It is quite awesome to think that many green leaves – like those of the birch, for instance – first emerge in the most delicate shade of gold; almost as if in tribute to humanity’s fleeting innocence (as Johnny Cade would say, “Stay gold, Ponyboy! Stay gold…”) and in homage to the passing of the leaf before it.

Without getting into its entirety (although I would love to chat about this with you over a cup of coffee!), the poem is packed with meaning, both symbolic and natural. It leaves (pun most definitely intended) the reader with nostalgic longing, despair, even, for times gone by – all too quickly, it would seem, given the fleeting essence of life. Yet, it also imparts a sense of hopeful yearning for new things to come.

When the Reds Bring on the Blues

In all its gorgeous splendor, autumn is quite capable of inducing melancholia – if you let it. Yet in this melancholia lies a catharsis, waiting just beneath the surface, hidden beneath the thick of fallen leaves.

The Divine, in infinite wisdom, tempers the season’s melancholic, melodramatic associations with its breathtaking beauty. Almost as if to say: “Whatever you feel has been lost, or is over, these are all able to produce something beautiful in your life; if they haven’t already.”

Life, in all its complexity and often harsh reality, is a series of learning; growing; decaying; birthing… and it can be beautiful each step of the way. Bittersweet, perhaps, but still worthy and capable of beauty.

Out with the Old

Autumn is nature’s way of getting rid of the old, so new things can grow. In the cycle of perceived death, lies the promise of new life; for such is the way of the world: every beginning lies in something’s end.In the words of modern-day poets/one-hit-wonder- band Semisonic,

In the cycle of perceived death, lies the promise of new life; for such is the way of the world: every beginning lies in something’s end.In the words of modern-day poets/one hit-wonder- band Semisonic, “Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.” Now I’ll give you a few seconds to get the song “Closing Time” out of your head…

Enjoy life’s fleeting, yet ethereal beauty. Find comfort in its infinitely intricate patterns; which herald the seasons, change, and the promise of renewal – both in the larger, natural order and within each one of us. And, as autumn rolls in somewhere in the world, let the season bring a rustling to your soul: we all need a little rustling, now and then. Definitely way more than we need that trendy new leather jacket

 

By ANGIE DUARTE

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