Autumn -fall, as some call it – sandwiched between scorching summer and frosty winter, is the most loved and powerfully attractive season given its beauty. The leaves are changing hues, the summer heat is left behind and the blossoming flowers are swapped by crispy leaves. Well, majority of us do enjoy and cherish observing the leaves from the trees changing shades from green to blazing red to amber and yellow before finally falling away. And so would I. But back then I never pondered over the word “fall”, may be because I was so much fascinated by the wonderful panorama which the season offered that I could not get to think about other associations that the word connotes. It is that time of the year when leaves after changing their colours eventually get detached from the trees, therein lies the whole story of fall. Here the most often used quote about autumn comes to my mind; “It’s so strange that autumn is so beautiful yet everything is dying.” To many people autumn air may bring about some pleasant thoughts while to some it may boil down to the thoughts of death, decay and doom. To some the former part is significant while to others the latter part takes over. This quote makes me draw an analogy of the autumn season to a wilted rose which retains its fragrance even while it is dying. The two are so interlaced that one cannot be separated from the other. So is true of the fall season when everything around looks magnificent yet the crumbling sensation is persistent.
It is very common to feel the autumn vibes as quite soothing and delicious yet the underlying meanings could be more profound than what we contemplate. The season of fall is perceived differently by different individuals. Some find a divine connection with the season while others get nostalgic over the memories. For others, it is just a season to enjoy the nature at its best and click breathtaking shots while getting carried away by its music and charm. And for a few, autumn is just regression to depressive thoughts and anxiety with an incredible urge for the sunny days.
Undoubtedly, each one of us has diverse memories dispersed through different parts of a year. Some relive the colourful reminiscences of their lives from fall while to others it is highly evocative when they witness the change in the air as the leaves fall to the ground creating a flood of memories. Every fallen leaf brings back to them the memories of the loss of a loved one making them dewy-eyed while taking them back to the times which they would never want to recall and unwittingly sadness pervades. The vistas, sounds and odours of the fall stir the soul but this enchantment is mixed with gloom. Thus, the signs of autumn with all its grandeur and brilliance are symbolic of death and decay and there is no escaping that.The resplendent red and golden foliage brings forth the fact that though beautiful but change can be daunting too. There’s where the melancholy comes from. And when we look at the leaves lulled to sleep, we perceive our own transience and mortality. This pushes me into thinking something about which I have never heard anyone remark: How does a tree feel while bidding farewell to its leaves? How do the leaves feel while getting separated from the tree? Here I wish I were in a Disneyland where I would get to speak to the trees and leaves in fall and get answers to the questions that would otherwise trouble me till my eyes close. I would ask them if they too feel the pain of separation and loss. And if the answer were ‘yes’, then I would have the last question for the souls rejoicing the fall. The question would be: What is so fascinating in autumn when the trees, leaves and the breeze are mourning the loss?
This has been beautifully expressed by Gerard Manley Hopkins in his lyric poem, “Spring and Fall”: “Margaret, are you grieving/ over Goldengrove unleaving? / It is the blight man was born for, / it is Margaret you mourn for” – where he is bewildered to find a young girl, Margaret crying over the falling of the autumn leaves. But he marvels over the fact that her mourning over the fallen leaves portends her own fate i.e., she is grieving over her own mortality without having the least thought of it. Mourning the separation from someone close to your heart certainly outweighs our understanding of death but autumn with all its splendour conveys the ultimate truth i.e. all of us will have to eventually fall from the tree of life.
This autumn, while pondering over the array of the splendid fall colours and remembering those who have left this mortal world, let us remind ourselves to reflect on how vital it is to celebrate life, embrace the change, embrace the present and relish whatever and whomsoever we have around before they are gone. Let us resolve to give our best in whichever way possible as long as we remain attached to the branches of the tree of life, for our small efforts can make a big difference for somebody. Even a kind word may help someone heal. A few minutes of your time to listen to and talk to somebody fighting their inner demons could be a panacea and a source of comfort.
Tubah Shah is a Postgraduate in English Literature.