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Autumn: A Glowing Review

By Cindy Murphy

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Fall colorThe end of October; this time of year signals the end of so many things. I always think of this as the end of autumn, although the calendar says we have almost two more months to go. Autumn is by far my favorite season, but it’s a bitter-sweet time for me. The nursery closed this past weekend. I'll stay on a bit longer to help with winter preparations, and then I’ll have plenty of time to catch up on my reading, volunteer at my daughters’ schools, and start in on that long list of projects that will languish half-finished until spring when I’ll make a mad-dash to get them completed before returning back to work.

This fall has been one of the most beautiful autumns that I can remember – the colors have been spectacular! A recent snap of wintry weather left a lot of trees bare, but there is still an amazing blaze of color left. I’ve always struggled for an accurate way to describe autumn’s beauty and color, and the feeling I get from it. I lack the eloquence of poets whose words flow like music and dance along the page, like autumn leaves dancing in the wind.

Red, yellow, orange and brown and all the hues in-between. Chlorophyll that keeps the leaves green fades as the days grow shorter, and the temperatures cooler. The pigments lying in wait under the green begin to peek through as the chlorophyll breaks down – anthocyanin for red, carotene for orange; yellow is xanthophyll, and the brown color comes from tannin. Reducing Autumn’s beauty to a scientific process using a handful of chemical terms that I can’t pronounce, takes all the magic from the season.

Part of the magic of the season comes from Halloween. My favorite season contains my favorite holiday, and it is a magical time to celebrate being a kid all over again. But Halloween is over; the ghouls and goblins have gone into hiding again until next year. Like this fall, it was over too quickly, though it was absolutely gorgeous while it lasted. The sunny, warm, windless sky, turned into the perfect night for Halloween – it was the kind of day and evening that makes me wish Autumn lasted a whole lot longer.

Autumn's end

Just like last Halloween … one that’ll stand out in my mind as being one of the best Halloweens ever. I took my youngest daughter, Shannon, who was six years old then, trick-or-treating. This is usually a journey undertaken by my husband while I stay home to make sure the house is properly haunted, and the trick-or-treaters properly treated with candy. But Keith had twisted his ankle, so we kissed him goodbye, and left him on the porch with instructions to keep the music playing, the candles lit, and the cauldron of candy filled.

It was a warm night for the end of October just like this year – the kind of night every kid hopes for on Halloween. There was no need for a winter coat to cover up Halloween costumes; I always hated that as a kid. It was a warm, but a rightfully gloomy and cloudy night. At dusk, the rain started. It wasn’t enough to get us soaked, but just the right amount to leave a misty veil of wetness covering our hair. It stopped nearly as soon as it started.

"Mom, the trees are glowing!!!"

I looked up through the veil of damp hair fallen on my face. The trees were glowing! When the rain stopped, the clouds cleared just before the sun sunk down. Before it completely disappeared, for a few moments it turned everything orange ... the sky, the trees, houses – everything glowed orange.

Glowing trees

"Look!" one of the many ghouls roaming the streets shouted, pointing to the sky. Everyone around us looked where he pointed. In the pumpkin-orange-colored sky was the largest rainbow I'd ever seen ... no, two rainbows – a double! Everything stopped – all the door-to-door activity halted; children and adults both stood silent for a minute or two, just gazing at the rainbows in that beautiful, glowing orange sky. My daughter’s hand squeezed mine, her eyes shone bright, and despite the Halloween make-up which had run slightly down her cheeks from the earlier mist, her face glowed with excitement.

It was the best treat I've ever received on Halloween.

And there I had it; the description that had been just out of the reach of my imagination. Glowing. One simple word out of the mouth of a child. It’s not the flowery language of poets, yet eloquent in its simplicity; unscientific, it encompasses all the magic of childhood, and of the season. It’s a word given to me by my child, and it will always describe to me what Autumn is, and an evening that will always glow magic in my mind.