Monday, September 08, 2008
Autumn Question No. 1: What is your favorite thing about Autumn?
Here is where I risk alienating my vast readership and perhaps getting myself committed. But swap requirements being what they are, do I have a choice? The mod says answer the question, we answer the question.
"One thing I miss from Back East," people say in California, "is the seasons." But the first September I lived in Los Angeles, California, I opened the window and distinctly felt fall arrive. The leaves didn't change colors, the temperature was still hot as blue blazes, the sun was still burning brightly, but there was something in the air -- something I couldn't quite name -- that told me autumn had arrived. I could breathe it in, even in this state without the seasons.
Back in my childhood lo these many years, there was this -- for lack of a better word -- feeling that would engulf me at rare, unpredictable moments.
It was partly physical -- my skin would tingle, my head would flush from my scalp down, and gradually this feeling would swell as it pervaded my chest, my arms, my heart.
(No, it wasn't a heart attack! You guys snickering in the back there can go now.)
As it moved through my body, it became more of a spiritual sensation. I would feel part of something grander -- a family, a community, a nation, a people -- until joy would pervade my whole being.
Like I said, it was rare. It was unpredictable. There was never anything I could pinpoint that triggered it, no sudden heart-stopping moment, nothing anyone said.
However, it usually happened in the autumn as I was entering my house -- not on a special holiday or anything, just opening in the back door and feeling the warmth of the kitchen begin to escape as I walked in. I would have just come home from school, spotting my favorite trees at the end of the street turning to gold and red, following the driveway to the garage stairs and the kitchen door.
I never knew when it would happen until an instant before it did, and feeling it come on was akin to hearing reindeer hooves clicking on the roof Christmas Eve. "Oh, goody!" I'd think. "It's happening again!"
Then it would engulf me and I'd feel so damn grateful that I was alive, that my mother was cooking dinner, that I had a warm home and a family to come home to, that the piano was there for me to practice, that my cat was there for me to pet, my books for me to read, my television to watch, and our table for me to set.
Don't get me wrong -- my childhood was nothing to write home to the Waltons about. In fact, on a scale of dysfunctional families, mine probably ranked at least a 7.5 out of 10. So there was no real tangible reason for this feeling to be there, really.
It hasn't happened since I left home for college. (In fact, truth be told, it was probably earlier than that when it stopped happening. The dysfunction in the end won out.)
But I never forgot it. I hold it as knowledge in my heart that happiness and true contentment exist in this world, and I never let go the hope that the feeling will grow into constancy in my life.