The oldest trees in our neighborhood are oaks, tall and stately. Despite the unseasonal heat (mid 90s today) they clearly recognize that fall is coming. Each night a few more of their leaves turn color, not the deep reds and yellows of late September, but a dull brown, reflecting the dry ground and the end of summer. Then, seemingly at dawn, those leaves are released, dropping gently to the ground until some ambitious home owner rakes them up on a Sunday morning.
Fall has always been my favorite season of the year. The crisp night air, the cool mornings, the sense of both change and beginning in my bones. Connected to what? Coming from where? Probably the High Holy Days play a role in that. Also that unforgettable rhythm, now lived through my own children, of the beginning of a new school year.
And then there is the Lord of the Rings, Tolkien’s great masterpiece of quest and loss, finding and letting go. The hobbit’s journey begins in the fall, just when the leaves are turning on the great oaks, maples, and spruces of the Shire. Fall is a time for traveling, for a walking stick, a humming tune, for noticing change, not only the leaves, but the shrinking days, the cooling temperatures. The years come and go, but the quest goes ever on. Sometimes we are on the way there. Sometimes back again.