“A Season to Celebrate,” Nov. 2, 2021

What’s your favorite time of year? I like different seasons for different reasons. But my favorite season is fall.

Growing up, I spent a lot of time with my dad and his folks on their farm in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina.

In summer, I would wade in the creek, chase lightning bugs and go fishing with my dad. I never caught any fish, but I had great fun watching him try.

In winter, I would pray for snow. When my prayers were answered, I’d spend hours sliding on a hill in the pasture and throwing snowballs at cows, then come inside to drink cocoa and thaw my feet by the fire.

In spring, my grandmother and I would go hunting for anything in bloom—trees and herbs and all sort of wildflowers. She would teach me their names and explain why God made them: Some had medicinal uses, she said, and others were like certain people, they just made the world a better place.

In fall, the weather was usually perfect, warm enough to play in the creek by day, cold enough at night to cozy up and listen while my grandmother or my dad read to me or told me stories.

But my best fall memory begins with rain. I was 6, old enough to take a bus 40 miles from the station where my mother dropped me off, to the town where my dad picked me up. We drove to the farm in a steady drizzle. Clouds hid the mountains, thick and heavy as my grandmother’s quilts.

The next day, when the clouds parted, I went out to see a sight I will never forget. I yelled and my grandmother came running.

“Look!” I shouted, pointing at what looked to me like flames, “the mountains are on fire!”

She looked. Then she laughed.

“That’s not fire, child,” she said. “That’s just fall.”

I wish you could’ve seen it.

Maybe you have seen a fall of your own, one that you will never forget. I hope so.

Those leaves left their mark on my soul. Fall became my forever favorite season. Not just for its colors, but for other things, too. Books we read. Talks we shared. Good times we spent together.

We did all those things in every season. But in fall, the days grew shorter. And longer evenings gave us more time for things that meant the most.

I remember the smell of my grandmother’s stew simmering in a cast iron pot on her wood stove. She made it with venison my dad had hunted. I swear, a bowl of that stew and a hunk of her cornbread would make your eyes roll back in your head.

That was long ago, but I recall it clearly. Some memories are gifts that stay with us forever.

Life took me west and I left the mountains, but the mountains never left me. I raised my children in a different world, but with the same values I learned as a child. They love fall, as I do, for mostly the same reasons.

Thirty years ago this month, my dad took his life. His health was failing and he was weary of hospitals. It shouldn’t have surprised me, but it still does.

He told me once, after his father died, that dying is part of life—that it’s how old things fulfill their purpose and make room on the Earth for the new.

Those words sing a silent hymn in my heart whenever I watch leaves fall to Earth.

When seasons change, they remind us that life keeps moving. We recall good times gone by, give thanks for the present, and dare to look forward to what lies ahead.

For supper tonight, I made a stew in my grandmother’s old cast iron pot. I used beef, not venison. It wasn’t as good as her stew, but we liked it. Tomorrow we’ll have leftovers. Maybe I’ll even bake cornbread.

I wish you could join us.

Fall will always be my favorite time of year. But the best season to celebrate life is any time, any place, every chance we’re given.

Comments

  1. Kate Sciacca says:

    Fall is the favorite here too… the mountains just to the west caught fire a couple weeks back… the only downside is, unfortunately, the boys have pretty much moved out and mama is going to learn to rake the crunchy mess and stuff the hefty bags. I think I’ll schedule the massage today 😂😂😂. Soon everyone will gather for turkey, pecan and pumpkin pie (well, really for whipped cream, the pie is only a base for the whipped cream 😉)— yep…. It’s a great season!

    Good to see the Braves victory… one of the boys played college ball with Jacob Webb (reliever for the Braves) – although he was taken off the WS roster he helped get them there… right through the NLCS…still gets a ring. Pretty nice. 😊👍🏻

  2. Sydney Love says:

    I’m a North Carolina girl and I know exactly what you are speaking of. As I read your story I could see the picture of the mountains. I also could smell your grandmothers stew. I love to read all that you write. You are amazing.
    When I was young spring was my favorite. I even planned my wedding for springtime. Now that I’m older fall has become my favorite. I love living in NC because we get to experience all of the seasons and I truly love them all.
    Thank you for sharing this special story and all of your stories. I wish I had a copy of every thing you have ever written.

  3. Mary Edmonds says:

    November has been a hard month for me for so long. Kennedy died, I turned 21, and our first baby girl passed into Heaven at 6 weeks. But your lovely description has made me feel better about fall. Fighting Fibro with the change of temps can be so much better with the lovely thoughts of the good things from childhood. I, too, enjoyed library books and warm blankets in the evenings. Thank you for cheering up a hard month. At 78,soon to have a birthday, I can enjoy November more now.

  4. CHope Hall says:

    Fall is my favorite season. The chill in the air, a nice pot of potato soup-or any kind of soup-salmon cakes, and warm cookie fresh from the oven. Nothing better than putting on a warm sweater and walking around looking at the beautiful leaves. Daughter and I both have October birthdays so we have parties too. This is a blessed time of year.

  5. Shirley M Franklin says:

    I, too, took a bus from where my Dad put me on the bus and to where my Grandfather picked me up 60 miles later. We lived in the suburbs of Buffalo, NY. My Dad took me to Orchard Park to get the bus to Ellicottville. I took that ride many, many weekends and usually after school was out in the summer. I spent most summers in Ellicottville with my beloved Grandfather, Aunt and Great-grandfather. To me it was heaven. One of my fondest memories is sitting on Grandpa’s lap on the front porch during a thunderstorm. Grandpa talked to me about rain and thunder. We watched the lightning. Suddenly, lightning struck a huge tree across the street, breaking off a large limb that fell on the front porch of the home. After that, I was no longer afraid during a thunderstorm – my Grandpa had calmed my fears. Over 40 years ago, I moved away from the Northeast and now live in Florida. My sister still lives in the country not far from where my Grandpa lived. She used to cut your column out of the local paper and mail it to me with a loving note, but a few months ago she stopped doing so. Life has become very difficult for her. We still talk on the phone frequently and send emails back and forth. I’m able to read your column on line, but it’s just not the same. Life has become difficult for me, too. I’m so grateful for the wonderful memories that still rattle around in my 87 year old head. Bless you, my dear friend for adding to my joy.

  6. Beth Heeren says:

    We are going leaf peeping soon in the NC mountains- where should we go?
    Beth

  7. Carol Miller says:

    Love your stories…. All of them…. This one! Fall has always been my favorite too…. I like all the seasons (unless snowy weather keeps me from going where I want to go)….but especially Fall! My mom loved fall too… but she died 33 yrs ago of breast cancer in Oct …as was her birthday in Oct. It does make Oct/fall a little sadder…. But we remember…. The happy memories!! Bless you!

  8. Katie says:

    Precious memories you’ve shared. Spring is my favorite season. EASTER with new Easter outfits, & my April birthday, Flowers. Everything is fresh & new! And, you knew summer is close behind. Great childhood memories for me, too! Praise God!

  9. Terry Mazich says:

    I needed this today. The timing couldnt have been better. Thank you!

  10. CAROLYN BRTELT says:

    My daughter and I just went to the New England states this October talk abut about beautiful fall foliage. It was unbelievable trees could be in such brilliant colors. Our small town of Huntingburg, Indiana has one tree that gives us such unforgettable splendor. New Hampshire in October should be on everyone’s bucket. Fall is great.

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