Here is presented a descriptive essay on autumn. It describes the essence of the season, what makes it unique and so different from the other three. It tells why it is the season of poets, the season of prayer, and the season of Thanksgiving. Autumn represents the harvestâ€”not just of the fruit of the fields but also of life itself. Autumn is the time in which man turns his mind to his own final end, to his own mortality, and yet maintains hope for good things to come.
What is it that makes autumn so special? Perhaps it is that autumn is the season of poets. Keats wrote his ode â€œTo Autumn,â€ describing it as the â€œseason of mists and mellow fruitfulness.â€ Hopkins penned â€œSpring and Fall,â€ with all the emphasis on the latter as he asked to the young girl to whom the poem was dedicated:
â€œMÃ¡rgarÃ©t, Ã¡re you grÃeving
Over Goldengrove unleaving?
LeÃ¡ves like the things of man, you
With your fresh thoughts care for, can you?â€
Hopkins gently chided Margaret, convinced that she was not so much mourning the falling of the leaves as she was mourning her own fallen nature and the debt that sheâ€”like allâ€”must inevitably payâ€”though, of course, what could she know of this, being only a child? Hopkins, like a cold autumnal cloud, poured cold water all over the girlâ€™s feelingsâ€”and sneered not a little while doing it. To prove what? That man is meant to grieve?â€”and what better time to grieve than when nature itself seems in the very throes of its final hours, offering a flash of terminal lucidity?
But then again, that is autumn. Autumn is like a ghost calling an end to summerâ€™s swells, to paraphrase Keats. It is the end of the danceâ€”yet not the end of the dance. There is still light left, but the sun is in its descent. The sky is orange and purpling now. The warmth from the day is now giving place to a slight nipping breeze. And what awaitsâ€¦? Something on the other side? Autumn is the season of spirits. All Hallowâ€™s Eve, followed by the Feast of All Saints, followed by the Feast of All Souls (Newland, 1999): prayers for the dead. Prayers for the poor souls in purgatory. Feasting and praying, fasting and mourning.
Autumn is the season of cemeteries. Yet it does not leave one there. It is also a season of hunkering down, of gathering and storing and getting ready for the long winter months ahead. Autumn is a season for thinking on the end of thingsâ€”but it is not the end of things itself.
But what is it about the season of autumn that turns oneâ€™s thoughts to the end of things? Is it the yellow browns, the crisp chill in the air that foreshadows the cold snap of winter? Yet fall is full of life, too: outdoor walks, football at the local high school, raking leaves into piles in the yard, trick or treating with friends, Thanksgiving with family, romantic rides in the countryside to see the changing colors of the foliageâ€”all of these represent some of lifeâ€™s most memorable moments. Perhaps that is why autumn is so often linked with reflection. Autumn causes the mind to stop and pause, to look back while also musing on what lies ahead. There is a wistfulness about Autumnâ€”something at once youthful and old. No other season has such an effect on the mind and mood. Spring does not do it, with its newness and buds and blossoms. Summer has a kind of torpid dullness intermixed with a frenzied state of action. Winter is encased in glass and icy gloom, coupled with moments of dazzle and delight. Autumn alone stands out as soulful and eloquentâ€”touching upon something significantâ€”something haunting.
â€œAh! Ã¡s the heart grows older
It will come to such sights colder
By and by, nor spare a sigh
Though worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie;
And yet you wÃll weep and know why.â€
So says Hopkins. But one need not limit oneself only to his perspective.
Autumn is the season of harvests. The fruit is taken from the fields. The trees give up their yield and that which cannot be carried off in baskets is left behind to rot and give itself back to the earth.
The fullness of time has come. There is no more to give. Things are called home. Man himself thinks on his other homeâ€”his home on the other side. He thinks on the Grim Reaper, who collects souls in his own basket and ferries them to the other side. He thinks on his own life and wondersâ€”have I done enough? Will it be enough? Will it do?
Shakespeare himself used the season of autumn to describe his own mindâ€™s unease about any seeming permanence, any attachment to the things of this world:
â€œThat time of year thou mayst in me behold
When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,
Bare ruin’d choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.â€
Yet he did not despairâ€”though he knew full well that love must leave the things it loves in this life, in this world, to go before the source of all life and love in the next. The ultimate harvest is that one.
Still, there is much mirth in autumn, too. Autumn need not strike fear in the hearts of men. Autumn can be a light-hearted time, too: a time of hay rides and pumpkin patches, sing-alongs, and haunted houses, homecoming games and dances. The fall coats come out, the stars seem to shine a little more clearly in the chill night sky. One sees oneâ€™s breath at night and enjoys the coolness of the crisp air kissing the cheeks. One sees oneâ€™s friends; one laughs, drinks hot cocoa, reminisces and looks forward to things to come.
Autumn is a special time of year because it is also the time of Thanksgiving. The first Thanksgiving was an act of generosity and respect by the Pilgrims to the Native Americans, who taught the newcomers how to survive in the New World. But as Little (2018) notes, the harvest of Thanksgiving was accompanied by a period of â€œprayerful fasting.â€ That intertwining of feast and friendliness with prayer and penance so encapsulates the spirit of Autumn that it makes a great deal of sense to have the national holiday of Thanksgiving celebrated in November of every year.
Abe Lincoln established the tradition of Thanksgiving during the Civil Warâ€”a fact that further shows the duality of the season: peace and war mixing about as much as the sense of life and death in nature. In 1863, Lincoln made his Thanksgiving Proclamation:
The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bountiesâ€¦others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civilâ€¦peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflictâ€¦.
With these words, Lincoln invited the nation as a whole to give thanks that even in the midst of a fight that was costing the country hundreds of thousands of lives, there could still be a reason to count oneâ€™s blessings.
Today, every family does the same every autumn. In many ways, almost every family, too, is like a microcosm of the civil war: there are brothers and sisters, parents and children who do not get along, who do not always see eye to eye, or share the same ideas or outlooks on life. They fight, argue, quarrel, and go without speaking for long stretches of time. And yet when Thanksgiving comes around on the fourth Thursday of every November, differences are set aside and everyone makes it a point to honor that which is specialâ€”family, life, Godâ€™s gifts, health, and memories.
Thanksgiving is to autumn what lights are to the Christmas tree: it is the holiday that best illuminates the season and gives it its underlying special character. Family members may travel a great many miles to share the holiday with others: they might drive across the country for two or three days, just to come together with friends and family whom they have not seen since the previous year. They will laugh and talk and catch up over a nice, big turkey dinner, with stuffing and mashed potatoes and gravy and cranberry sauce. They will have wine and beer and soda for the kids. There will be music and videos as the afternoon fades into twilight and twilight fades into nighttime. The festivities will eventually quiet down to a soft murmur as restful sleep descends upon all and brings them comforting dreams to keep them quiet through the night.
And the following day and the whole rest of the weekend there are Thanksgiving leftovers to enjoyâ€”the symbol of the fruit of the harvest that was once so important and crucial to the survival of the Pilgrims as they sought to make their way in the New World. Today, the harvest is enjoyed for days, punctuated only by bouts of shopping as the malls and stores open their doors for the autumnal crowds to begin preparing for the next season and its big holiday: winter and Christmas.
So as November gives way to December and autumn gives way to winter, the thoughts of man also drift and wander onto new topics. They find solace in the serenity of snow-covered streets and lawnsâ€”the quiet stillness of a crystallized world after a foot of snow has muffled all the sounds of the ordinarily chaotic world. Autumn says goodbye and leaves it to winter to re-focus the activities of mankind onto new chores and responsibilities. For life does not conclude with the harvest. Autumn is not the final word. It is merely a passing moment in the great big scheme of thingsâ€”a significant moment, no doubtâ€”but one that is followed, hopefully, by many more chapters yet to come.
This descriptive essay on autumn should have provided the reader with a sense of what autumn is all about. The sights, the sounds, the smells, the sensationsâ€”all of it is here: from the leaves turning yellow, orange and brown in their silent firework display of color before falling to the ground; to the high school Friday night football games, the student body and proud parents in the stands; hot dogs and cocoa and popcorn sold at the concessions booth; cheerleaders cheering on their team at the sidelines. There will be the homecoming dance, a parade, a king and queen crowned. There will be trick or treatingâ€”and for pious souls there will be the Feast of All Saints and a month of prayer for the dead. It is the season of harvest-time, when the fruits of the field are finally gathered and distributed and the earth is stripped of its bounty, looking bare and depleted. Yet the tables will be full for Thanksgiving, and family will be gathered around. Thanks will be given for all Godâ€™s blessings, and hope will be communicated among one and all for union with the divine goodness. Autumn is a season of life and a season of deathâ€”it is unlike any other time of the year: it embodies the essence of what this life on earth is all about.
Lincoln, A. (1863). Thanksgiving Proclamation. Retrieved from http://www.abrahamlincolnonline.org/lincoln/speeches/thanks.htm
Little, B. (2018). What is Thanksgiving? Retrieved from https://www.nationalgeographic.com/news/2015/11/151121-first-thanksgiving-pilgrims-native-americans-wampanoag-saints-and-strangers/
Newland, M. R. (1999). All Hallowâ€™s Eve. Retrieved from https://www.catholiceducation.org/en/culture/catholic-contributions/all-hallow-s-eve.html
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