I went on my final bike ride of the season a couple weeks ago—one of those sun-kissed days when the light bounces off the red maples and the golden poplars, the sky is an impossible shade of blue, and the air is rich with the smell of earth and bonfires. Every time the breeze blew, the sky rained leaves, the yellow and red confetti falling in fistfuls as I rode.
Of course, at the time I didn’t know it would be the last ride of the year. But here in the Midwest, November is notoriously fickle, and winter has a way of sneak-attacking you.
My husband and I have ongoing discussions about the merits and demerits of fall. He is Mr. Summer, relishing the long, hot days so he can ride his bicycle to his heart’s content. I tell him the things I love about fall, but he shakes his head, unconvinced. As I tick off the highlights of the season—apple crisp, walks in the woods, s’mores over an open fire—he logically points out that you can do all those things in the summer, but with warmer weather and longer days. “Fall is just the warning that winter is coming,” he says.
It wasn’t until I was riding my bike that day that it finally hit me that that’s precisely its appeal.
The particular beauty of fall comes because you know it won’t last.
Summer, with its endless days and languorous nights, its extravagant greens and lush flowers, seems to stretch on without end. But in the fall, reminders are everywhere that this beauty is fleeting. The trees chameleon overnight. Branches shed their leaves in a single storm. The nip in the air arrives out of nowhere one morning. Without warning, it’s time to pull the sweaters out of hibernation.
Here’s what I think: Autumn is God’s reminder to savor.
It’s a wake-up call that no season, no matter how wonderful, no matter how painful, will last forever. Fall is God’s way of saying, “Each day is a gift. Don’t take it for granted—but don’t hoard it either. Just see the beauty of today and soak it in.”
If you find yourself in a season of bliss right now, don’t fear the changing seasons ahead. Savor the gifts of the right-now. And if you are going through a painful season, look for beauty amid the dying. Savor this—yes, even this.
Autumn . . . the year’s last, loveliest smile.
William Cullen Bryant