"In autumn there are indeed the blazing reds and yellows of maples, the apple orchards ripe for picking, the carnival pleasures of the state fair, the fullness of barns, Thanksgiving dinner, blankets around the knees at high school football games, the lovely long shadows of the orange sun at dusk, the dry smell of leaves in the air, and the smoke of their burning. There are pumpkins and the delightful frights of Halloween, the tartness of Concord grapes, and the Vs of Canada geese honking raucously overhead," write Gary Schmidt and Susan M. Felch in this collection of pieces about the season of fall. They teach literature at Calvin College and previously edited Winter: A Spiritual Biography of the Season. This volume includes selections by three dozen nature writers, poets, essayists, gardeners, and politicians from across the centuries and throughout North America. The editors see autumn as a time of change, endings, work, harvest, and Thanksgiving.
In the section on change, Susan Fenimore Cooper writes about the landscape and the transformations that arrive with fall. Anne Lamott reflects on the inner changes that take place. The editors see autumn as a season of elegiac remembrances, and certainly many of the holidays attest to that: Veterans' Day, All Hallows' Eve, and The Day of the Dead. Kent Gramm muses lyrically on the deaths of his father and mother in November, and Alix Kates Shulman reveals how autumn brings forth fresh resolve in her. Tracy Kidder writes about a teacher arriving back in the classroom we return to old routines in the fall. Lauren Springer ponders the meaning of what transpires in the garden in autumn, and May Sarton not only tends the garden but looks to her book projects.
The section on the harvest contains a fine essay by Henry David Thoreau on a walk through autumnal woods. There are also a few harvest prayers and hymns. Garret Keizer's piece, "I Am the Clock-Winder," stands out in the Thanksgiving section. Taking all of these pieces together, we stand in awe of autumn as a spiritual teacher who challenges us to persevere in the face of change, death, and the challenges of work, and also to rejoice in the bounties of the harvest and the blessings of Thanksgiving.