Every year it seems, I write a blog about autumn. Last year I wrote The Warmth of the Sun, the year before, The Intimations of Autumn, and others that include Autumn Days are the Best, Autumn and Joe Montana and Delicious Autumn! My Soul is Wedded to it. There may be others as well. Evidently, I love autumn. What is it about this season that produces such nostalgia, such longing, such remembrance of things past?
Monday I was in a kinda funk. So to feel better, I played around on my phone, checking out social media. I posted some of my favorite pictures, and updated one of the aforementioned autumn themed blogs. Still feeling a little out-of-sorts, maybe I was looking for “my own spot to stand,” to quasi-quote Jim Weatherley lyrics. I stumbled on some very cool Autumn themed Facebook pages, joined a few and was greeted by other fall-a-philes.
Finding these pages reminded me of my love for this season and some of my favorite memories. As I frolicked, like Puff, in this kind of autumn mist of misty-colored memories of the far past, my out-of-sorts sorted itself out. When I reconnected with things I loved and others that loved them too, I got re-grounded. There’s more than just memories here.
I consider myself in the autumn time of my life, being past 50. And as I age, I appreciate this season more and more. I know my autumns are numbered, as all of ours are, and I’m determined to extract all the joy and pleasure I can from its colors, its celebrations, its sensations, its weather and its memories. True pleasures are few and far between.
However, C.S. Lewis said something interesting in The Weight of Glory, when speaking of a universal sense of elusive longing, a longing which appears to be related to nostalgia, but not necessarily so:
We cannot tell it because it is a desire for something that has never actually appeared in our experience. We cannot hide it because our experience is constantly suggesting it, and we betray ourselves like lovers at the mention of a name. Our commonest expedient is to call it beauty and behave as if that had settled the matter.
Wordsworth’s expedient was to identify it with certain moments in his own past. But all this is a cheat. If Wordsworth had gone back to those moments in the past, he would not have found the thing itself, but only the reminder of it; what he remembered would turn out to be itself a remembering. The books or the music in which we thought the beauty was located will betray us if we trust to them; it was not in them, it only came through them, and what came through them was longing.
These things – the beauty, the memory of our own past – are good images of what we really desire….For they are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited.
I believe this is what autumn does to me…those good memories I have are really like beautiful phantoms. If I went back to those days, granted many joyful moments remain, but the beauty that Mr. Lewis speaks of, the longing, the saudades according to the Portuguese, sehnsucht to the Germans, is elusive; it is a reminder and longing for something else. It’s the thing I long for when I look for a home. Mr. Lewis continues:
We do not want merely to see beauty, though, God knows, even that is a bounty enough. We want something else which can hardly be put into words – to be united with the beauty we see, to pass into it, to receive it into ourselves, to bathe in it, to become a part of it…
For if we take the imagery of Scripture seriously, if we believe that God will one day give us the Morning Star and cause us to put on the splendor of the sun, then we may surmise that both the ancient myths and the modern poetry, so false as history, may be very near the truth as prophecy.
At present we are on the outside of the world, the wrong side of the door. We discern the freshness and purity of morning, but they do not make us fresh and pure. We cannot mingle with the splendors we see. But all the leaves of the New Testament are rustling with the rumor that it will not always be so. Someday, God willing, we shall get in.
In the meantime, and during my remaining autumns, I will frolick in the autumn mist of my happy childhood memories of Santa Rosa, my summers at the Russian River. I will remember school, mud football, Halloween, Thanksgivings and Christmases with my grandmother. The old memories. I will also remember, misty-eyed, the lean Christmases with my babies, listening to Evie’s Come On, Ring Those Bells while decorating the house and making homemade Christmas presents. Running around now with four grandchildren, I have NO IDEA how I managed to tend to ten kids. Grace abounding, glory to God….seriously.
And as I remember, I understand swirling about those memories are gleanings of a far away country, a place where He is preparing for me an eternal abiding place. Something wonderful this way comes….
Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea. Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”
Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.”
Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.
C.S. Lewis – The Weight of Glory