I love autumn, my favorite season. Depending on your autumnal regimen, there are pagan rituals to partake in, football homecoming games, harvest gatherings of friends and neighbors, fruits and gourds to be picked, canning, pickling and preserving and making pies, seasonal homemade wines and beers to be racked, knits and flannels to be worn, harvesting crops, firewood gathering, putting the garden to bed for the winter, walks with dogs in the forest of subtle lights. Even the smell of the air has changed and we are alert to the changing season in our bodies and minds.
There’s also something ineffable about the fleeting transition from summer to winter, making this time of year strange, sacred, and irresistible to poets. As Rilke put it, “At no other time (than autumn) does the earth let itself be inhaled in one smell, the ripe earth; in a smell that is in no way inferior to the smell of the sea, bitter where it borders on taste, and more honeysweet where you feel it touching the first sounds. Containing depth within itself, darkness, something of the grave almost.” Something of the grave, indeed. A time of culmination for plant life, preparation for the animals, and rumination for us humans, fall isn’t just pumpkin spice latte season and sweater weather — it’s the threshold between life and death.