The farm is at it’s most beautiful this time of the year as the trees go from green and soft and bursting with vitality to something somewhere between fullness and emptiness, some shade equal parts life and death. When we talk about Fall we talk about dying. It’s only natural to see the rhythms of our own lives played out every year amidst the changing seasons. But a tree doesn’t die in the Fall, or even in the Winter, instead it goes through something hard to describe, a reprioritization maybe? Knowing Winter is near, the leaves are cut off from their source, they turn colors, sometimes gloriously, sometimes they turn dry and brittle and break in a soft wind and sometimes the cold wind rages them away.
I was hauling cattle the other evening and my mind started to wander. I looked out the window as I passed an old working town that was home to a McDonald’s, a Big Lots, and a pervasive feeling of emptiness. The mountains were beautiful, big and blue and dipped in gold. The trees were weeping the last of their leaves as the cold started to set in and the wind picked up. Fall evenings are something else entirely; taut and crisp as the skin of a red apple picked with friends on a perfect Saturday. You know the days I’m talking about. The light is perfect and there’s never any humidity. It’s college football season and churches are cooking big pots of Brunswick stew on the lawn beside those pretty little two lane country roads. Maybe its the weather or the time of year or the boring, slow haul pulling cattle up the highway but my mind always seems a little sharper in the Fall. The past is nitpicked and plans are laid for the future. Windshield time they call it, the directionless wanderings our minds make as we bumble our way down the road. This political season makes me think we could all use a little less CNN and a little more windshield time.
As we made our way down the road, the hum of the wheels interrupted by the intermittent impatient stamp of a hoof, I reflected a bit on the past year. It was a tough year by anyone’s standards. We got some bad news followed by a lot of time in oncology departments, followed by some really good news. Life is tough like that sometimes, and some years are tougher than others. While I’m thankful this season is closing, it’s left it’s mark. You wake up in the middle of the night and have to remember it’s over, but then again is anything that leaves its mark on you ever really over? I don’t know but maybe F. Scott Fitzgerald had it right when he closed Gatsby with the immortal line:
“So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”
That’s one of those questions best suited for a bit of windshield time, as the hum of the road and the last leafy vestiges of summer get blown, broken and dry, across the pavement.