Keynote Address Delivered at the Autumnal Equinox Ball (at which a Venerable but Feeble Summer and a Ruddy, Glowing Autumn were in Attendance)

Distinguished Seasons, Special Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,  it is my great privilege to be making a few remarks this evening at the Annual Equinox Ball.  I am especially honored to be seated here at the same table  with our Season of Honor, Autumn (A bronzed and muscular Fall nods and waves to the assembled guests who give him a standing ovation; this is his night, after all).  Before I continue, I’d like to recognize another very distinguished, very venerable guest:  Summer, please stand and be recognized (leaning heavily on his cane, the white bearded old season stands and smiles at the crowd who applaud him too).  I think I speak for all of us when I say thank you, Summer, for everything you gave us: long, lazy, happy days at the beach and hikes through the woods, perfect red tomatoes and juicy watermelons, for stories told around campfires and your gentle, shady breezes that cooled our sweaty brows and for so much more.  We are in your debt.  We wish you well in your retirement.

And now we turn our attention to the Season of the Hour, the fall Guy, our newly arrived guide and companion for the next few months, Autumn.  Welcome, Fall, season of love and loss, of rich harvests and empty vines.  We are your students, we are your lover.  Teach us again about the glory of even one day of living.  Enfold us in your sights, your tastes, your smells.  Our eyes long for a peek of your brilliance, your full-frontal reds, oranges, yellows.  Our tongues thirst for a droplet of fresh-pressed cider, to taste its dusky sweetness on our lips.  Our noses are ready to breathe in deep draughts of pungent, sweet decay, the lovely fragrance of wet leaves underfoot and garden soil black and rich, with only a stubble of growth, an autumnal five o’clock shadow of plants’ stems long since harvested and cleared.

I call you the season of love.  That may come as a surprise since your cousin, Spring, typically holds that honor.  I call you the season of love, because among your many endings you usher in the new beginning of schools open for business, classes in session.  Students, whose summer play is over and who now sit, looking wistfully out windows at your colorful leaves, learn lessons and take notes, also noting new people in class or well-known classmates now looking new and lovely and desirable.  Along with the scholastic smells of book covers and paper, chalk and glue, floats the sweet aroma of romance, fresh relationships, hoped for liaisons.  I can’t speak for everyone in this hall, but most of my childhood sweethearts, including the final one, the woman I married over thirty years ago, entered my life in the fall.

Some of you know me as a man of the soil, a grower of things.  One of my favorite fruits of the earth, picked and enjoyed under your benevolent gaze, Fall, are apples.  Few moments are as precious as the ones I’ve spent in cool, early morning orchards, the grass and trees laden with diamond dewdrops, thousands of clear crystals reflecting and refracting the red and green and yellow bounty hanging from a million Autumn branches.  After love and leaves, nothing summarizes, evokes, images you better than the taste, the smell, the feel, and the look of a night-cold, just plucked, freshly bitten, eagerly consumed apple.

Well, Autumn, here we are.  We are ready to confront again the mysterious dance of life and death that you force us to face with its irrevocable power, its wanton inevitability.  We long to be taught, to be reminded of life’s victory, the promise of ultimate regeneration, of ultimate resurrection that flies in the face  of naked branches and dry, dead leaves strewn through forests and fields, in gutters and sidewalks.  And yet these same leaves, with so much other garden waste, breaks down to become the rich, life-producing soil that will sustain another season of growing things.  With your arrival, the growing season ends and the vines and bushes that have borne so much, die.  And yet, we store their fruit: squash, pumpkins, carrots and turnips, of course apples,  and jars upon jars of food to sustain us until, from this year’s compost, gardens bloom again.

Dearest Fall, your ministrations, the massage of your Indian Summer breezes and crunchy cool nights, help us know that living is both circle and line, a repeating cycle and, at the same time, a movement toward an end.  You school us in the lost art of balance, teetering but not spilling empty fields and rich harvests, glorious fall colors and ugly bare branches or any of the other contradictions we must absorb under your care.  We love you and hate you for what you give and for what you show us has been taken away.  And yet, we come back for more of your bounty, more of your lessons, more of your smoke and leather, frost and pears, shocks and punkins.

Autumn we salute you as we admit our joy in you and need of you.  May you reign these next three months in our backyards, on our hillsides, and in our hearts.

About literarylee

I sling words for a living. Always have, always will. Some have been interesting and fun; most not. These days, I write the fun words early in the morning before the adults are up and make me eat my Cream of Wheat.
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