Since moving to our cottage in Berkeley my favorite place to read is the corner seat of the couch, looking out of one of the south facing windows. From that seat I can gaze across a low, moss-grown rooftop over which a towering oak spreads its thick branches, rising higher than my sight can reach. The oak must be centuries old. Each evening as the Sun hangs low in the western sky, the leaves of the oak catch the beams of golden light, and small winged beings fly in the amethyst air between the branches. The tree shines in its majesty, echoing a time when such trees might have been the place of worship.
Looking across the mossy roof to the neighbors home, which has a cleverly-built deck railing constructed of former bicycle wheels, I can see leafy grape vines trailing along the railing and the awning of the first storey. All year I’ve watched these vines grow, mere sticks when we first arrived here in the heart of winter, growing pale green shoots and curling vines through the spring, and then a spreading glory of wide, rich verdant leaves covering every available surface. Autumn turned the leaves to flaming red, a deep crimson that draws the eye like the cloth of a royal garment. Just in the last few days these red leaves have begun to fall, some blowing even to the threshold of our doorstep. The magnolia in the next yard over is now withered yellow and brown. But in the spring I know it will once again burst to life with thick white and pale pink blossoms before the dense, green spring foliage replaces the flowers. I’ve watched nearly one full seasonal cycle from this seat, countless books open on my knees as I’ve done so.
Walking through my neighborhood late this afternoon the crisp fall air rattled the leaves overhead, a welcome alternative for the moment to the sound of the turning leaves of books. Fruit trees are heavy with figs, apples, and persimmons, while the branches of the plum and loquat—so abundant this spring and summer—await next year’s rejuvenation. This will always be my favorite time of year, when the world becomes misty and golden, and the overlapping worlds of inner and outer saturate my imagination with flowing images. A quietness is whispered in the autumn winds, a song not heard any other time of year.
The world is in chaos, but moments of peace can enter in. Perhaps they become more poignant to savor when held up against the dark mirror of the outer world. The Sun is setting now, and I light a candle to awaken the golden autumn light within the darkness.