The days grow cool in autumn as a mist spreads down from the mountains like a bridal veil, and stars strew the night skies with a multiplicity of diamonds.
Summer taxes the soul with its tyranny of heat and winter passes without noticeable change unless the rains come in drenching torrents, but autumn colors the trees and adds gold to the fields.
Autumn is a quiet time.
I realize as I sit in our gazebo facing the somber moments of my life that there is a melancholy nature to the stillness of the morning. I find myself gazing past the oak trees and chaparral to the place where images appear in kaleidoscopic substance, reassembling the past.
I see our daughter Cindy in the last seconds of her life, our entire family gathered at her bedside, saying goodbye in our individual ways. I see myself leaning down to kiss her forehead and I hear the whispery sobbing of her sister.
I imagine Cindy walking away, trailed by her life, free of the cancer that eroded her physiology.
She died at 1:25 on the morning of March 29th. It will forever haunt me that on the afternoon of her death there was a loud banging in the room, enough to shake the house, a thumping four times somewhere on the roof or around us or everywhere.
We all heard it and tried to find a reasonable source but there was none. The fact that there were four thumps reminded me that I once joked with Cindy in the silliness of our rapport that the answer to anything was always four. And I wonder now if somewhere she was granted ethereal time to acknowledge that.
If there is a substance to the notion of spiritual contact it might have occurred then. And while you will not find me chanting and banging tambourines, you will find me staring and wondering.
Autumn makes one more aware of nature, of things that grow and things that live, a cycle in the seasons that calls upon us to remember that we are all interlocking pieces of the universe, each depending on the other for our existence.
Flowers that avoid the ebullience of spring bloom in the graying tones of an autumn morning, and small animals scurry through the shrubbery, animated by an instinct that is almost a dance to the shortening days of the year’s fading months.
There is life everywhere in autumn and music too if you listen carefully, emerging from a hum that is the foley of film-makers, the background sounds that affirm life’s vitality: the murmur of traffic floating up from the boulevard, the barking of a dog, the flutter of birds, the distant voices of humanity fragmented and reassembled in the misty air.
A week ago I became suddenly disconnected with my life, not knowing where I was or why and being told later that I had probably suffered a minor stroke. With that, a bad heart and a lung disease called COPD I am abruptly aware of my own mortality. I suck in life like energy through a straw and rise to remember how much beauty is contained in its essence.
Autumn is the mother of seasons, and I am one of its children.
Al Martinez is a Pulitzer Prize winning essayist, former columnist for the Los Angeles Times, author of a dozen books, an Emmy-nominated creator of prime time television shows, a travel writer, humorist and general hell-raiser. Try him. He's addictive. Almtz13@aol.com www.almartinez.org