Birds and butterflies may migrate along the path of the sun, but we remain to greet autumn in all its glory. Leaves may change their colors due to the shortening days and photosynthesis, but we stay to feel the cool breezes. 

The sun crosses the equator. Our days become shorter, and nights grow longer. We stay and simply turn on the lights. 

Autumn is one of the kindest of the four seasons, and we celebrate her. Each of our four seasons brings change. They each have their own special attributes and their own magic.

Few are as warm and cuddly as fall. In each season’s magic, which is individual to each of us, are our cherished memories. These memories surface each year, flooding back, front and center when a new season bursts onto the stage. 

My childhood memories come from back in the Midwest where seasons make even more dramatic entrances. Living in Michigan meant that if you survived the heavy summer weather, when you constantly dripped perspiration caused by the often 99 percent humidity, you would be rewarded with those first few cool breezes in September. 

The season quickly presented the treasure chest of leaves of vibrant colors, shades of brilliant orange, bold red, cheerful yellow and a deep cranberry. The leaves seemed to smile as they gently swayed on their tree.

The leaves knew that soon they would take flight and dance in the wind. They had lived their entire lifetime from bud to verdant beloved under the sun’s hot rays. They did all this to be able to dress in colors all admired. The leaves take flight at their top glory of beauty.

This final act of freedom would be the culmination of their life’s work. I loved autumn as a young child whose love of nature was so exuberant that I beamed in expectation with each new birth or passage of life. I loved the acorns I found at the bottom of my beloved trees.

I enjoyed laying under these trees that put on a color show that I believed was made just for me. I loved to rake all the millions of leaves to just jump in them and do it again. I would later look at the tall trees, now barren, all the leaves having departed. I was not sad.

I knew that come the spring, new buds of life were coming. I looked up at those bare trees, and I imagined that they must feel free left to themselves. For a while it would all be just about them. How tall and majestic they were.

How proud they stood. They seemed to say, “This is me. I stand here in all my simple glory. I am the mother to the leaves that sway in spring and summer, the mother of the colorful leaves that poets write about. I watch my babies, my creations fly off as is their destiny. 

“But I am still here. I am majestic, witness to all the seasons that pass through me. Soon I will be decorated with sparkling snow. The seasons are all my dear friends.”

The autumns in my youth were more than a spectacular show of leaves. However, it was also all of those wonderful tempting smells.

I recall the aroma of apple cider, slowly warming in my mother’s pan, the bursts of nutmeg and cinnamon jumping out of the pot, making it almost irresistible. I bring back the sweet memory of temptation created by the homemade apple pie resting in the warm oven.

My stomach would dance in anticipation. There was hot cocoa with marshmallows and the fun of toasting marshmallows at night, under the harvest moon. We would sing songs and dream of the excitement of Halloween waiting for us just around the corner.

Then would come Thanksgiving, with relatives gathering and so much food we believed we could never finish it. But we always did. Then came December, the most fun month of all.

Yes, I know that my memories are so golden because it all happened in my youth.

I still did not know of the labors ahead of me. I pray that I never completely lose that sense of simple wonder and awe. Maturing can dim some of those sparkling lights. There is maintenance in life, heating bills, the family will need new warmer clothes, the leaves pile on the roof, wet roads, more cooking as cooler weather fuels our appetites.

With earlier darkened skies, children are more afoot. You think of all the expenses ahead. You dread the credit card bills. Growing up can surely dampen the joys of the season if you let it. Remember the words of the wise scholar Winnie the Pooh?

“It is the first day of autumn

A time for hot chocolatey mornings,

And toasting marshmallows in the evening

And best of all, jumping into huge piles of leaves

Any time!”

The secret power of our four amazing seasons is that they all bring out our inner child and let them play. We can be free to admire the bedazzled trees, jump in those piles of leaves, breathe in all the delicious aromas, make toasted marshmallows, devour candied apples, pile the whipped cream on our hot chocolate. We can decorate our homes and put on holiday music.

You are free to enjoy every remarkable day. You are free to suck the joy out of every minute or you can build more memories. No one can tell you no. We are adults now. We benefit from the knowledge gained by our passing years.

We know far more than any child can muster or imagine. We know that just as those vibrant leaves shine and then drift in the wind, years fly by just the same. For as it is said in that old song Frank Sinatra made so popular,” For it’s a long, long time from May to December, but the days grow short when you reach September.”

This is such a glorious time of the year, a beautiful time, a playful time. Let’s all breathe it in. Yes, it’s okay to jump in. Remember, in life there is everyday reality, but there are also your specialties: your happiness provokers. We need reality to keep our life’s train on track. We need specialties to make the trip worthwhile.

Diana J. Ingram

Diana Ingram has been a columnist for Los Banos newspapers for four decades.