English poet John Keats (1795-1821) wrote the famous lines about autumn, ‘’Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness, close bosom friend of the maturing sun.’’
Keats was a great poet. His poems are striking and poignant. But the part about autumn—I am not impressed.
Regardless of the lovely shades of yellow, orange, and red adorning trees, ripening fruit, and mists playing chase over the hills—autumn means only one thing to me…cold. It is already colder than it was and it will be getting colder still. I hate cold. I hate being cold. I counter my negative winter thoughts with remembering and singing (to the best of my ability which unfortunately isn’t much) “This is the day that the Lord has made; I will rejoice and be glad in it.’’ And I do rejoice in the things that God has made. I do rejoice in the day. Every day that God has made. And I am glad. Over the years I have developed an attitude of gratitude…except for autumn, except for winter, except for cold, except for getting cold or being cold.
I do not like winter. I already don’t like winter this year—and it hasn’t even arrived yet. I’ve memorized Psalm 74:17, “You have made summer and winter.’’ Also Ecclesiastes 3:1, “To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven.”
But every year when Keats’ season of mists and mellow fruitfulness arrives—I just want to bring back spring.
Every October when a cloudless autumn sky blooms cerulean—I remember Norma Jean. She died on a day like that.
Norma Jean was in my ninth grade class. I didn’t know her well. She didn’t sit close to me in class. She didn’t hang out with me at recess. But one day our homeroom teacher came into the room and said, “Class, Norma Jean will not be coming back to school this year. She has cancer. She is dying.”
Shock glued me to my desk. I wrote a poem about Norma Jean. I didn’t pray for her—I wasn’t a Christian back then. I didn’t know how to pray. My parents were atheists. We didn’t go to church. We didn’t have a Bible in our house. God and Jesus were only mentioned as swear words—words that kids were not allowed to use.
Up until our teacher’s announcement, I didn’t realize that children could get cancer. I didn’t realize that they could die young. My adolescent mind had never grappled with hard truths like that.
Nora Jean died 55 years ago in rural Georgia. I wonder how any other people remember her? Many of us will never achieve fame or fortune. But if we can have even one person remember us 55 years after our death the way I remember Norma Jean in October when an autumn sky blooms cerulean—we will have lived well.
Some people hate autumn because leaves falling off trees remind them of death and dying. I hate autumn because it leads to winter. I hate cold.
Some people wax poetic about the beauty of leaves changing colors. I love color and beauty, too, but what I love most about fall leaves is their passionate dance with the wind.
Leaves are born to a single tree in the spring. For the first half of their lives—they are stationary. They are held captive by the tree. Wind can tickle them and make them tremble or shiver—but the leaves can’t go anywhere. They are dependent on their attachment to the tree.
Fall arrives. The leaves turn lively colors and die. Trees release them. The wind catches them up—and suddenly—they are no longer “dead.” They have new life, new adventure, new purpose. Piles of fallen leaves warm the ground and protect it from winter cold. Creatures bury themselves under the leaves finding shelter and food. Eventually, the leaves decompose. They enrich the soil and coax new life into existence.
What a marvelous parallel to our lives as humans on planet earth. We live. We “die.” But, because of Jesus—we never really die. Our “death” is a freedom ride to eternity.
Jesus promised those who believe in Him, “And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish, neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand.”
My mother’s favorite season was fall. With seven children, she had little time for her own pursuits, but when she did – she loved to do paint-by-numbers of autumn-stroked trees.
I hate autumn. Some folks say they don’t like this time of year because it reminds them of death. Not me. It reminds me of COLD. I hate cold. I hate being cold. Out of 16 published books, I think only one is set in fall. The rest are set in spring or summer. Winter gets exactly zero.
Still, God’s Word says, “To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven.” Ecclesiastes 3:1. Daniel 2:21 states that it is God Who changes the times and the seasons. I know better than to fight against God. I never win.
So I will adopt my mother’s example of appreciating the glorious changing colors of fall. Instead of thinking ahead to the cold winter, I will let the warm colors of autumn ignite a fire in my soul to rejoice and celebrate every day God gives, every season He dictates.