One Last Gasp

100_3296Standing in this riparian valley I have a magnificent view of the early October foliage along the shores of the river and on the hills and mountains on the north and south sides of this brilliantly colored basin.  The sun is rising to the east and the colors seem to be at their absolute peak.  The red colored are leaves are crimson, the yellow colored leaves are lemon, orange leaves are apricot, and the gold leaves have transitioned to a beautiful honey color; all representing the crescendo of the autumnal celebration.  These astonishing colors contrast wonderfully with the evergreens dotting the hillside.  It is no wonder that the temperate deciduous areas of North America are renowned for their fall foliage.  It is eye candy at its best.

The peak colors do not last long; typically only a few days.  How curious it is that like other natural phenomenon the autumn colors burn their brightest for a short time and then they are almost suddenly gone.  Hard rains and high winds are predicted for this evening, a likely precursor to the termination of peak fall foliage in this area. One last gasp before the winter dormancy; it happens every year but somehow I still find it surprising.

While considering the brilliant foliage as I view the landscape before me my mind wanders.  I am reminded of a supernova, the final moment of a distant star burning itself into oblivion.  At the very end the supernova gets brilliantly white and then disappears as it turns into a neutron star.  If the neutron star is too large it collapses into a black hole; from my perspective the darkest place known in the universe.

This thought leads to another, more personal, observation.  I have few memories of my mother’s dad, he passed to the other side when I was not quite five years old.  I remember a story that was told by family members, usually in a quiet setting as if the story were some sort of secret.  Evidently my grandfather had been hospitalized for some time due to a failing liver, the prognosis was grim.  Shortly before his death he became animated.  He sat straight up in bed as if he were well and looked to an open window near his bed.  Staring into the out of doors he proclaimed to see a bright light and then an angel.  Never a religious man it was surprising to those who witnessed the event.  He reached out as if to hold someone or something’s hand and then he died.  I have always been attracted to this story.  It seems to me it was his final moment of truth before death.  One last brilliant gasp.

And here I stand looking at the beautiful landscape just before the trees go dormant.  I am happy that they look so radiant.  The colors lift my spirits.  It is a good end to another chapter in the book of life.  The next chapter will have its own beauty.  It will be quiet, cold and white, and full of mystery.  I have reason to rejoice.

Written for in October of 2009.

  • Sandy

    I just got off the phone with my mom. She told me a story very similar to the one you just wrote about. Her cousin in Idaho said, and saw almost the same thing. Two similar stories 15 minutes apart? Wow.

    We are past peak here in southern Maine, too. It is supposed to rain this weekend, so don’t expect the leaves to be around much longer.

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