I'm so glad autumn, my very favorite season, is nearly here. There's a special kind of magic about those three months that grabs me and doesn't let go. In nearly 40 years, I've never quite been able to adequately describe the magic -- and even if I could, I wouldn't want to break the spell by uttering the appeal. I love the rich earthy colors. I love the crisp air. Of course, I love football season!
The maple tree out back has always been my fall barometer. When I was a kid, I always knew it was close to my birthday because there would be tons and tons of leaves all over the yard from the maple. As time has gone on and the climate has changed, I can't count on the leaves as the telltale sign of my birthday. For many years, the leaves didn't turn, let alone actually fall, until November -- past my birthday. Other years, especially the drought-stricken years of recent memory, the leaves have turned and gone by mid-October (too soon for this girl!).
The tree isn't much longer for this world. It is very old, drying faster than you can imagine, and we've already had to cut limbs weakened by summer droughts and winter ice storms. It makes a nice wood to put in the fire pit, but there's sadness in that burning too. I dread the day the tree will come down at last. It's coming fairly soon -- the tree trunk is just barely on our neighbor's side of the property line, but the branches extend to both yards. As a kid, I always thought of the tree as ours and in a way, I still do. Dad and the neighbor have discussed it several times over the last few years -- we all know that the tree is dying. When limbs were cut a couple of years ago, one limb in particular had a portion of the center hollowed out and full of black ants. Yeah. Not good for the tree or for our respective properties (his shed, Dad's shed and our deck).
It is startling to realize that I'm about to turn 40. Honestly, it's a birthday I've looked forward to for quite some time now. I've been prepping myself for months, telling myself I'm 40. It's just a number. That's all. But it's a good number. I feel very at ease in my own skin and in my own life. It took me such a long time to get there. With age comes wisdom (sometimes, anyway), and as much as I still think of myself as being younger (I'll always be 27 in my mind!), I wouldn't want to do it all over again. I gained this perspective and insight and wisdom through my failures and missteps and stumblings -- and even if I could go back and change things, I wouldn't. Do I want to trade off the hard-earned knowledge for getting my way (and maybe getting far worse)? Not a chance. I'm keeping what I've earned. Yeah..... that's it. A sense of earning my keep in this world. That what I know and what I feel and sense and believe has been earned, and not just handed to me. That's what's making 40 feel like a great place to be.
Makes me giddy. Fall and 40.
One very VERY sad note: I lost a fraternity brother this week, and I am just heartbroken. Carolyn was only a few months younger than me. She was a dedicated teacher, coach, friend, and all-around good person. There will never ever be another person like her -- yeah, we all know that. But in this case, it's so very true. Carolyn wasn't the life of the party; she was the party. It really makes me so very sad to realize the world is a dimmer place without her. I pray today, the day of her funeral, that her family is strengthened and comforted by God's love and care, and that they take solace in the love shown by the legions of people whose lives were touched by her -- all the kids she coached, the students she taught, her colleagues, the friends who loved her, and anyone whose life was changed by her care and concern.
As for me, I am sure that the angels welcomed her warmly into Paradise. I also have no doubts that she's already organized a parade, followed by a barbecue, for all new arrivals to have a meet-and-greet! And is passing out clown noses and balloons to everyone. "Hey, Moses -- here you go, you forgot this! HONK HONK!"
Godspeed, Shotgun. You will be sorely, dearly missed, and I know we shall meet again.