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Monday, October 5, 2009

Autumn: Trick or Treat

How I feel about autumn reflects how I feel about life. When I think of autumn, I think of colorful leaves, pumpkin pie, apple turnovers, Halloween and Thanksgiving. At one time in my life I dreaded autumn’s dreary cold days and the miserable weather ahead.

Autumn reminds me of trick-or-treat. Being an optimist, I remember the treats more than the tricks. I lived in the country where neighbors were few and far between so we went to town to trick-or treat. Each Halloween night it wasn't long before word on the street led us to the houses handing out homemade cookies or popcorn balls. We also learned which house to avoid. That would be where the cranky old man yelled at kids to “Get outta here before I start shootin’!”

One Halloween, Jim and I had the opportunity to play a trick on our boys. They walked up the road to my brother-in-law’s house to retrieve our dog who had strayed off looking for romance. The full moon provided their only light. Oh, yes, it was the perfect Halloween night. The wind pushed mysterious clouds across the sky and wispy shadows hinted of witches, bats, or werewolves. Jim and I hid in the bushes near the dirt road. Our two sons were talking to each other or they would have heard our giggles. When they got close, we jumped out screaming and yelling. They were only startled for a moment, and it didn’t seem quite as funny to them as it did to us.

Autumn is more than dressing up in costumes and eating candy until we are sick. Our unique inner clocks determine whether the autumn of our lives becomes trick or treat. To some people, retirement means they have lost the focus of their days and feelings of self worth. I look forward to it as a time to spread my wings and fly toward the fulfillment of youthful dreams put on hold for the greater part of my adulthood. I see the autumn of my life as an opportunity to spend time with my grandchildren, write the novel bouncing around in my head, and relax with a good book from time to time.

The autumn of life can be the perfect season to feel young again, a time to taste sweet wine and enjoy heady smells of spice, the scents of fall. Autumn is the time to join in fall festivities and rejoice at the end of harvest—years of hard work and sacrifice.

Chronic diseases like Alzheimer’s or cancer have an autumn in their duration. During the autumn of the disease, it is time to decide whether to spend your days dreading the cold winter ahead, or savor the kaleidoscope of burnt orange, warm golden hues, and cheerful yellows. Do you want to taste the crisp juicy apples of fresh harvest, or put them aside and rue the day they became bruised and shriven?

As we sit at the table of autumn fest, our mindset determines how much we savor the bounty on our plates. It isn’t so much life's physical tricks—aching backs, arthritic joints, a slow numbing of our minds—as it is attitude and ability to enjoy today for what it brings. When we feel the sun on our faces, it helps offset the cold wind blowing at our backs.

We cannot change the seasons, we can only change how we feel about them. Life should never be in a holding pattern waiting for a season to change. Living life in dread of the next season and what it may bring, can steal our joy. I believe that joy delayed is joy lost. The important thing is to embrace today and celebrate the festivals of the current season. It is our choice whether life is trick or treat.

Copyright © 2009
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